Antipathy: The Consequences

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 TWO: the consequences

Chapter One

Everything was so white and tremendously bright that he let his eyes fall shut again for a moment. When he did, he felt the ground around him tilting, and the world spun around him. This was the worst Kryptonite hangover he'd ever experienced. He could feel his body trembling. Cold, metal restraints held his wrists and ankles to some sort of cushion-less table or perhaps to the floor.

He opened his eyes again.

The dizziness overcame him, and he leaned over to the side, wondering if he was going to vomit. He'd never so much as had heartburn before, and the notion was rather frightening. His body convulsed, and, without realizing it, he tore his restraints.

Suddenly voices came from everywhere.

"Those were solid titanium," someone said. Clark jerked his head towards the noise; the room rotated sporadically around him, leaving him helpless to determine where it had come from.

"Looks like Luthor' s hunch about the strength was dead on," a different voice said. Clark sat back upright and drew his knees up to his chest, knowing that he must have torn the metal at his ankles as well. He couldn't care right now, though. His return to consciousness had been abrupt and so painful. It felt like he'd been kept in touch with the Kryptonite for hours.

His healing powers were kicking in, though, and he let his legs lower, coming to a rest on either side of some sort of table. Straddling the table as he was, he was able to gain some sense of stability, and he opened his eyes once more, forcing himself to visually absorb his surroundings.

The room he was in was painted a solid white colour--it was so completely homogeneous that he couldn't tell where the floors ended and the walls started. There was a door, however, hovering just out of reach. Pushing up on his unsteady legs, Clark remembered how the sunlight felt on his face. The thought seemed to imbue him with psychological strength and he pressed forward.

The nausea had nearly disappeared and the room stabilized; it had toppled like a sock in a washing machine, and suddenly the tumble cycle was over.

Without thinking, he wrapped his fingers deep into the sides of the door and pulled it loose. He stumbled slightly as he tossed it aside; as he righted himself, he heard a voice again.

It was merely a gasp--but it was a gasp that had come from nowhere; a gasp that had materialized like a ghost, and revealed everything.

He was being watched.

Squinting at the wall, he saw through it, through the foot of solid concrete that surrounded it, and into another room. It was as white as the one he was in, but it housed two people: scientists, tightly gripping clipboards in their white-knuckled hands.

His hands shook in anger. He wanted to hurt these people that had captured him. He wanted to see his own fear in the eyes of the people who had captured him. He was not a rodent, to be experimented on for the good of humanity. He wanted to show them that he was more human than they--kidnapping torturers that they were--could ever be.

But more than anything, he wanted to go home.

So he ran.

Before either of the scientists could even blink, he was out of the lab and running through corn fields. He reached out and could hear his mother's voice.

A moment later, he collapsed, shivering and curled into the most protective position he knew, in the middle of Kansas, and knowing that there was only one place he wished he could be: at his mother's side.

He felt this horrid lurching feeling in his stomach when and lay there, choking, until he passed out.

When he woke up again, he felt frustration bubble in his throat. He was back in that room--or a room, at least, white and inhuman as the other. He remembered running through cornfields, feeling his strength growing as the sun beamed down on him; knowing that soon he'd be home and he could take his mother somewhere far away, where they would both be safe.

And then pain had shot through him, as though there was Kryptonite everywhere, and he'd fallen, convulsing like a sheet in the wind, until vomit had risen in his throat and he'd been left with darkness again.

That darkness contrasted boldly with the white of the room he was in, and, more and more, he realized that he'd have preferred being unconscious to being back in this room.

This room represented everything he'd been afraid of the last time he'd been in a lab. It was cold and impersonal; it reeked of that cold and impersonal art called science. He was bound, like some sort of animal ready for autopsy, to the same stiff reclined chair.

He had no idea how he'd gotten back here or why had he collapsed while running, free of Kryptonite and in full view of the sun.

A door opened from behind him. He waited uncomfortably, and tugged at his retrains. To his surprise, they held. He strained to look at them, and found that they were glowing a faded green, and leaving red rub marks on his wrists.

The man that came into view was not Dr. Williams. He was a younger guy, with white-blonde hair and sharp angles in his face. His wide blue eyes looked cruel and cold. Clark craned his neck as he came closer, pulling against the Krypto- cuffs, trying to get a better look at him.

"My name is Sean," the stranger said. He smiled a wide smile at Clark, and Clark couldn't help but think that it looked rather taunting. He realized, as he settled himself back onto the cold table that there seemed to be something protruding from the table. A moment later though, he couldn't feel it anymore and he turned his head slightly to look at the man.

"Why am I being held here?" Clark asked tersely, fully expecting not to get an answer.

"You're an amazing research opportunity," Sean replied, looking at the clipboard he held. "Unlike any human that has ever existed in recorded history."

Clark didn't reply. These people did not know that he was not even technically human, and he was not planning on letting them find out.

"We've seen people affected by the meteor rocks," Sean continued. "We've studied them many times. However, none of them are quite as... unique as you. None of them can move as fast, or have anything even approaching your sensory capabilities. As well," he paused, and pulled a small box from his jacket pocket. "None of them react the same way to the meteor rocks." He opened the box then, revealing a pea-sized piece of Kryptonite.

Clark cringed away from it.

"How did you get me back here?" Clark asked.

Sean smiled that condescending smile.

"Okay, princess," he said softly, a hint of a lisp creeping into his voice, "I'll make you a little deal. I'll talk now... if you promise to talk later."

Clark said nothing.

Sean took his silence for assent.

"Does your back hurt, a bit?" he asked. "Your healing capabilities are amazing, so I imagine it doesn't at all."

"What are you talking about?" Clark growled, just barely stopping himself from pulling at the restraints and throwing himself at the doctor. He felt like an animal, strapped to a table and ready for autopsy, and didn't want any of these men to forget that he was--before he was a lab rat or a specimen--a person.

"The first few scalpels we used just broke," Sean continued. "Even with you passed out and clearly weakened by the meteor, the scalpels and needles would shatter before piercing your skin. We ended up melting down some of the rocks and making shiny green knives to cut you open with."

Clark's stomach twisted in horror. His ears rang as the image of green knives flashing over his vulnerable body crashed into his mind.

The question that he wanted to ask burned in his mouth--what have you done to me?

"The contraption that we put into you is quite simple really," he continued. "It is a lead box with a sliding door placed inside another box, and situated in your back, just below your spine, between your kidneys. There are two threads--only about two molecules thick--of the melted meteor rock holding the box in place by linking under your ribs." His smile turned almost kindly when he saw the look of terror on Clark's face.

He held up a small remote. It had only two buttons and a dial on it. "If a situation were to arise that you need to be pacified," he said, "such as with the incident earlier today, I simply press the button." Clark flinched, expecting him to press the button as he said the words, but nothing happened.

"It's okay," Sean said. "I think that we can get along. It's your turn now, though."

Clark looked at him expectantly, not sure of what he was supposed to say.

"Tell me everything you know about yourself."

Lana rolled over in her bed, wrapping her arms tighter around herself, and rubbing her hands up and down her arms. She had enough blankets piled on top of her that she could barely breathe, but she still felt so cold.

She closed her eyes and thought of the last time she'd seen him. It had been the day of the trial and she'd sat, clutching Chloe's hand, and watching him. Even if she couldn't be close to him, even if she couldn't tell him how grateful she was that he was risking everything to protect her, she could still watch his lips move as he spoke.

The actual words that he said--that they were as painful as losing the baby was her first hint that she had a problem.

Clark didn't love her. She'd resigned herself to his fact long ago, when he'd broken up with her, and then slowly, while telling herself she loved Lex, she'd let herself love Clark again. She had let herself believe that Clark still loved her.

She sat up in her bed and looked around the apartment. She'd rented the small bachelor apartment in Metropolis soon after the trial had ended and she'd realized that she'd far overstayed her welcome in the room over the Talon. The apartment didn't have a bathtub, so when she needed a good soak she would throw a plastic place mat over the drain and let the hot water fill the few inches that the porcelain surrounding the drain would allow. She would curl up, then, letting the shower run until it was scalding, and then let it continue to fall down, burning her skin, while the water in the bottom slowly drained.

Often, her olive skin would be a deep shade of red before she could convince herself to move again. It seemed to be the only way she could stay warm--the only way she could wash away the feeling of Lex's hands on her hips.

Tonight, though, she didn't head for the shower. She was barely affording rent as it was, and an extra large hydro bill wasn't going to help matters. What she had, though, was an alternative. It had the added advantage of numbing all higher order brain function and leaving her with a pleasant haze of unknowingness.

She poured herself a shot of vodka.

Lois had brought her out drinking the day after the trial. That night, Lois had demonstrated her tank-like ability to hold her alcohol, and Lana had displayed to the noisy party, her inexperience. She had ended up throwing up all over the home-owner's leather couches and into the knocked over the sub-woofer in their ten thousand dollar sound system.

But the hour or so before that... she had felt wonderful.

She took a second shot--downing it without changing her stoic expression. After her third shot she felt the warm feeling settle in her stomach and put the lid back on the vodka bottle and slid it into the freezer.

Ten minutes later, she was asleep beneath her mountain of blankets, curled into a tight ball, with her hands placed protectively between her thighs.

Chapter Two

Clark stared into the apathetic blue eyes of the scientist. He looked inquiring, but curiously blank, as though perhaps the information he wanted might satisfy some sort of hunger for knowledge, but it wasn't imperative. It was entirely possible, though, that the strangely empty expression was the result of the man's need to distance himself from his work--to remove the emotions from holding an apparently human specimen hostage against his will.

"Tell me everything," he repeated. Clark clenched his jaw.

"How can you live with yourself?" Clark asked, finally, nearly whispering the words.

"How can you?" Sean asked in return. Confused, Clark looked at him imploringly, daring him to elaborate.

"You have, within you, the scientific equivalent of the coming of Christ," he hissed. "Near instantaneous healing, the cure for cancer," he continued, brandishing his clipboard at Clark. "When you consider your abilities, don't think of you, the angst-filled, misguided, lonely teenager. Think about the lives you could save. The blind could see, the deaf could hear, the old could be young again."

"I just..." Clark said, looking away from the man's sharp eyes, "I just want to live my own life."

"Your life isn't yours any longer."

They were silent for a minute, the both of them contemplating that statement. It was medieval in its implications--that Clark might somehow be property, be some sort of slave to this evasive master called science.

Clark let himself harden, then. No matter what good the research might be able to do, this was still his body. He could do good in this world, and knew that he would, if only he'd been allowed to reach the Fortress and complete his training. He was no use to anyone now, this stumbling boy who pieced together his abilities with the help of his mortal parents. He needed to be taught--he needed to know.

"You're not going to be able to keep me here," he whispered, looking directly into Sean's eyes and telling himself that he believed it. He flushed from his mind the memory of only hours ago, when he had run through Kansas cornfields and felt so entirely free... he made himself forget that he was back here now, despite his attempt at escape.

He had been disoriented. He hadn't planned. He'd been nave and believed that running could be an answer.

"We will," the scientist said, without hesitation. "We need to know everything. You underestimate the nature of the human spirit. What we need, we get, no matter what the cost."

"That's the nature of arrogance," Clark said. "I choose to believe that human nature is nobler than that."

"Tell me everything you know about yourself. Tell me everything that makes you different from everyone else. This," he said, pausing and glancing at his remote, "is the last time I ask nicely."

"Let me go," Clark suggested. "I can tell you everything over coffee. I know this great place in Sma--"

A scream tore from his throat, penetrating his sentence and throwing it roughly aside. The pain was so intensely personal that it seemed to be inside of him, and all around him, forcing itself into his body through every pore.

This time, he did not pass out.

His eyes opened wide, he saw nothing but white shapes that pulsated with his heart; his body throbbed with the strength of knives at every point.

This, he thought, was Kryptonite as it had never before been.

The pain did not stop suddenly, as he thought it would. Even after what was causing the pain... the box in his back... had ceased, his body continued to convulse, the pain still pertinent and real--the serious effects of a Kryptonite hangover.

He realized, a minute later, when he could differentiate between his body parts again--a finger was a finger and a nose was a nose--he had bitten through his lip. Once the effects of the Kryptonite had faded further, the wound healed up, leaving only it itchy feeling of caked blood.

The headache lingered a little bit longer. When he finally opened his eyes, he saw those light blue eyes. He closed his own again.

"Tell me," Sean whispered. Clark could feel that he'd lowered his head so that he was close to Clark's ear. When he spoke next, his breath was hot on Clark's neck. "Tell me what else you can do."

The contact, even something as small as another person's air touching his skin, reminded him how lonely he'd been. He imagined himself at home, in the field, under the large oak tree... he remembered that day when they'd been happy--his arms wrapped around Lana, and his head lowered to her neck. He wished that he'd tried harder to keep that moment alive.

The pain vanished.

"Go to hell," Clark hissed.

The pain returned a moment later, but this time Clark did not scream. The hurt ate at him from the inside, scorching his vulnerable organs and tissues; it ripped at him in ways he had never thought possible. But he did not scream.

He wouldn't allow them that satisfaction.

It was a dark night in Metropolis. Buried so far beneath sky scrapers and the looming Daily Planet globe, the moon and stars were made obsolete. In this part of town, the only light seemed to come from the buildings that flaunted scantily dressed dancers and flushed, laughing faces.

Lana hesitantly approached the back of the line. The people ahead of her stood in pairs, or small groups, talking and giggling, comparing cleavage and fake ids. She had barely stood there for five minutes before a soft, accented voice called to her.

"You don't have to stand in line, hun," he said, his deep German voice strangely comforting. She looked up to see a very tall man, perhaps a teenager, looming near the curb. He held an official looking clipboard and had cheek bones that made her knees quake a little. His hair swept upward, and his grin kind, and charming, Lana couldn't help but leave the line to talk to him.

"Are you a bouncer?" Lana asked, shyness creeping into her voice. He shook his head.

"I organize the parties," he explained. His white dress shirt was unbuttoned enough to reveal his chest--more than impressive enough to merit bouncer status. "So I can let in anyone I want." His blue eyes wide, he bowed his head generously towards her. "And," he continued, "I want you." Gently, he put his hand into the small of her back and guided her forward, to the front of the line. The actual bouncers, about eight feet tall and lurking in dark jackets, nodded to the boy next to her.

"My name is Viktor," he said, pulling a business card out of his pocket. "If you ever need into a party, you just call me."

"I'm Lana," Lana replied. She realized that perhaps she should have lied; she didn't even know this guy, he could be some sort of pervert trying to lure her away from the safety of... she glanced around her, at the strangers and alleyways. There was no need to lure her, she thought. She was already far from safety.

Taking her hand, he kissed her fingers. "Lana," he whispered. "But I'd never forget a face like that."

Slowly, Clark lifted a hand to his head. He could feel each finger shaking as it moved further from the surface he was lying on. He was surprised to find that he wasn't bound, or even lying on the same stiff table he had been forced onto earlier. Instead, he was in a small room, painted a soothing yellow, with only a small bed with blue covers in one corner, and a toilet and sink in the other.

After looking around from his lying down position, he decided that escape would require that he stand. He braced himself on his still-shaking arms and pushed himself upright.

Immediately, the pale colours in the room around him blurred together. He felt his stomach lurch and his abs tightened apprehensively. He did not, as he suspected he might, throw up. After several minutes of painful dry heaves, he felt his body starting to heal itself. There was no sun nearby to rejuvenate him, nor even any food to give him strength, but his body was still, as it had always been, super.

He noticed that the bed and makeshift bathroom were not actually up against the walls of the room. They were all at least a metre from the walls, making the room look a little bit too large, as though the decorators had gotten there first and the builders had been given separate blue prints.

Tentatively, he rose from the ground. He reached out, as though expecting a hand to appear to stabilize him, but he was still alone. He closed his eyes for a moment as the world spun again, and then forced them open and moved towards the walls.

Surely, he thought, this time they would know how to stop him. They wouldn't give him two free chances at escape. The first time, he thought, doubtless they were trying out their new device, testing how far he would go when uninhibited. They knew that he had held back in the studies for the trial. He had known that they knew, and had respected them for not pressing the matter.

From where he was standing now, he had nothing but loathing from them.

Maybe later, he contemplated, he might be able to look back and decide that these scientists were truly doing what they thought was best for humanity. Perhaps he'd think that they were not selfish egotistical maniacs who would lock up a fellow sentient being for their own agenda. But now, he couldn't see it any other way.

He was a metre from the wall now, at the point where the furniture sat on that invisible boundary. Drawing forth all of his strength, he pulled back his arms and brought them crashing towards the wall.

It was as though someone had electrocuted his spine. The pain shot into all parts of his body and he crumbled to the floor. Desperately, he crawled back into the middle of the room and slowly, gradually, excruciatingly, the pain died down. As he panted he sat up and looked at the wall, hoping that what he had done had made some sort of a difference.

One fist had reached the wall, it seemed. He hadn't even felt the impact. It had left a hole, an inch deep, in the plaster and had revealed what was underneath.


They didn't know about his x-ray vision, he mused, glaring at the wall, attempting to force his vision through it. That could mean only one thing.

On the other side of the wall, there must be Kryptonite.

It was almost morning when Chloe left for Smallville. By the time she'd arrived, more than an hour and three coffees later, it was light out. She had been planning on visiting Lois, and then having tea with Mrs. Kent, before she headed back to the Daily Planet to get some work done. However, as she drove along the cornfield lined highway that drew a straight line from Metropolis to the center of the small town, she found herself thinking of another person that she should visit.

Clark had left for the Fortress of Solitude nearly a week before. He had made it clear that there would be no way of contacting him whilst he was training, but the caves that he frequented and had fought so hard to protect had always held a sort of connection to him.

She drove her car as close as she could to the wilderness that surrounded the caves, and then exited the car, ensuring it was locked before pressing onward.

In many ways, the caves were as they always had been--dank, secretive and dark. But today, it did not hold its usual comforting air, rather, it seemed as though it had been violated.

Foreign scruff marks littered the cave floor, scarring the dusty, rigid earth. She did not know the caves that well, but there was a gouge taken out of one of the symbols that she was sure had not been there before.

Internally, Chloe shrugged. Perhaps some high school kids had gotten drunk and hosted a party here, away from prying parental eyes. She had started moving towards the wall behind which Clark's concealed room hid, when something caught her eye.

It was the key. It shone in the weak light of the caves; nearly completely covered in dirt, it would have been invisible to any but the most observant of eyes. Crouching, Chloe picked up the key. Its smooth surface felt slightly warm in her hand.

She rotated on the balls of her feet, turning to look towards the room that should have transported Clark safely to the Fortress. She couldn't see the wall from where she was sitting--it was behind a sharp turn in the cave; even with Clark's super strength, there was no way he could throw such a curve ball. Nor could she figure out why he'd want to. The room was sealed, so even with the key Chloe wouldn't be able to use the key to visit him.

Standing up, she moved around the caves more purposefully now, looking for any other evidence that might be able to better explain what had transpired here.

Maybe, she thought, Clark was safe in the Fortress, taking the crash course on being Kryptonian from the computer that pretended to be his father. It was entirely possible though, she continued to muse, based on her finding the key here, that he wasn't.

And that possibility was enough. Abandoning any plans for further visiting, Chloe stumbled through the undergrowth back to her car and headed back to Metropolis, where she'd be better equipped, at the Daily Planet, to get to the bottom of this.

Chapter Three

Lex Luthor was not entirely ready to become part of society's outcasts, wanted and unwanted by all the wrong people, stalked by the police and exiled from the general populace.

It was for this reason that he waited patiently in the prison, biding his time by tormenting the other inmates and using his substantial outside influence to get anything he wanted.

It was that same influence that convinced him that he wouldn't be long for this prison. He had an appeal approaching, and he was certain that the defense's star witness wouldn't be rushing in to save the day.

Today, however, his mind had been stuck on the thought of Lana. He was more human than anyone had lately suspected, and he'd been so entirely wracked with guilt over the thought of what he'd done to Lana that he'd forced her image out of his mind. There was nothing he could do about it now, he thought. There was no way to fix this.

Today was different.

Today was a miniscule break in the monotony of prison life. It was a sliver of light through the clouds. It was the day of his divorce.

Lex had wondered why it had taken Lana so long to make this appointment. Based on the look of disgust in her eyes when she had looked at him that last time in the courtroom, she should have wanted to be completely free of him as soon as humanly possibly. Perhaps even sooner, Lex thought, thinking of her very inhuman friend.

Sitting in the visiting room, Lex ran his hand over his shiny scalp, smoothing hair that he hadn't had for ages. He knew that he looked terrible--pale and skeletal, with dark bruises under his eyes from a lack of sleep. He knew also that Lana would look astonishing--she always did.

It was for this reason that he was so shocked when Lana sauntered into the room, flanked by divorce attorneys and looking more bullied than he did.

He remembered how terrible she'd looked after her breakup with Clark. He was pleased, and a little remorseful to note that she looked worse now. At least he knew that he had made a mark on her life. More than precious Clark had. He'd hurt her worse than precious Clark had.

"You didn't sign a prenuptial," she said, obviously disregarding any need for pleasantries. "My lawyers had advised me to go after everything. Based purely on the amount of trauma I've suffered as a result of this marriage, I'm fairly certain that I can secure a large financial sum. I don't want your mansion. I'd never go near it again."

She placed a folder in front of him.

"Lana," Lex said, his voice deeper than normal. "Can't we talk--"

"I don't think so, Lex," Lana snapped. She stood to leave.

"Lana," Lex said, desperately. "I love you."

Her eyes flashed in anger. "Don't you dare say those words to me," she hissed. "You aren't capable of love."

"How can you say that?" he asked, his voice low, trembling. "I trusted you with everything. I gave you more than I ever gave anyone else--"

Lana's hands were shaking. She forced the papers into her lawyer's hands, and the both of them backed away from the couple. "Lex," she said softly. Her jaw was set rigidly but her eyes contrasted this stiff determination. Tears lay barely out of sight behind her bottom lid, and her eyes spoke strongly of vulnerability and suffering.

"Lex," she said again, and she sounded hurt, devastated. "You raped me. You held me down and forced yourself onto me. You listened to me sob and beg, and plead with you and you, you sick bastard," a strangled sob interrupted her. A tear fell and pooled at the side of her nose. "You raped me and you got off on it." She pushed the table, hard, and it scraped across the floor, pinning Lex against his chair, his handcuffed hands trapped in his lap.

"But Lex," she continued, sounding calm again, "you aren't just a rapist." She looked away from him, as though trying to gather her emotions, get control of herself. "You're a murderer," she said finally, looking back at him.

"I carried our baby inside of me," she said softly. She was beyond upset now, she looked nearly hysterical, as though the dam that was holding the waterfall of emotions back were about to break. "This baby," she continued, "you said that you loved. You made a nursery for her, researched schools, you planned our life together with her, and then, in one violent, disgusting act, all of it was gone."

She stopped talking suddenly, and looked down at her shaking hands. "You killed her," she whispered.

Lex shut his eyes, slowly. Lana's words, all of them, brought the reality of the situation rushing back to him. He'd fought his entire life against the darkness that he'd known was inside of him, told himself that if he surrounded himself with wonderful people, that they would help him. But those people, his mother, Lana, Clark: they all ended up getting hurt.

"Her?" he asked, finally.

"They checked the gender of the fetus," she said, her voice sounding emotionless, "when I miscarried. It was a girl."

"A girl," Lex whispered.

"I thought I could trust you, Lex," Lana continued, in that strained, apathetic voice. "You lied to me more than anyone I've ever known."

"What about Clark?" he asked, before he could stop himself.

At the sound of Clark's name, a strange calm came over Lana. It was disturbing to watch--her shoulders straightened, her expression became less pinched. Lex could have sworn that she almost smiled.

"I care for Clark more than I could ever care for you," she said.

And then she was gone. Lex was more than seething--he was livid. It seemed that Clark's most recent save, his largest sacrifice, had secured him again a place in Lana's heart. She had fallen in love with him anew, erasing completely from her mind all the terrible ordeals she had suffered on Clark's whim.

Later that night, just after dinner and before they were to return to their cells for the night, Lex made a quick phone call.

"Doctor," he said, breathing heavily into the phone. "Make his stay with us as painful as possible. Just keep him alive--I want a chance with him before it's done."

Clark's scream shattered the tender silence of the laboratory, echoing distantly through hallways and through the lonely stairwells of the facility. The next cry was audible outside the building, scattering the crows that had been resting in a nearby cornfield. Almost a mile away, a young girl looked up from the plate that had been placed in front of her on the worn wooden table.

"Mama?" she asked hesitantly, squirming around in her chair so that she could see her mother, working vehemently at their small stove.

"It's just the wind, darling," she assured her daughter. She wasn't entirely sure, though.

"We don't have enough information," Sean said, "to go ahead and give you anesthetic. For all we know, you could blow up like a balloon and die. You don't have any drug allergies, do you?"

The green scalpel made the third cut, the surgeon's hand trembling slightly in response to his patient's obvious pain. The boy arched his back in a vain attempt to escape the pain that the knife caused him. The surgeon watched as Sean brought a large green rock closer to the boy's head: it seemed to subdue the patient slightly, make him less able to struggle through the restraints, but he would not have guessed that it eased the boy's pain.

As he finished his cut, which completed the pattern on the boy's chest, he leaned in to draw back the skin, using the scalpel to slice the sinewy tissue holding skin to muscle. The first cut had started high on the patient's chest, finishing inches above his belly button. The next two had sliced horizontally across the top and bottom of the first, as though he were performing open heart surgery. He had never performed a bypass or valve replacement surgery on any specimen so obviously healthy, in fact, this boy looked nearly perfect.

He found immediately that he was unable to draw the skin away from the muscle underneath. The head scientist working the case laughed, his pale blue eyes crinkling at the corners. "You need help?" he asked. Turning around, he smiled charmingly into the camera.

"Though the incisions were made with ease," he said, as though addressing an audience, "using the meteor rock scalpel, the surgeon is unable to tear back the skin flap."

Upon hearing Sean's words, Clark began his struggle anew. Despite the throbbing in his head, despite the blood he could feel oozing from his wrists from the Kryptonite-coated restraints, he needed to escape. These people were going to open him up, to look at him from the inside, document all of his organs. The pain in his head began to ebb, and he turned as much as he could to stare at Sean. The slender man was moving gracefully towards his torso, and placed the Kryptonite on his stomach.

He hated to think what its proximity to his crotch would do to his sperm count.

His thoughts were ripped suddenly away from future prospects of children as the pain restarted. He pulled himself upward so that he was staring down his chest and saw, to his horror, that the surgeon was now removing his skin with ease.

The tissue beneath his skin was shockingly red. Clark let out a single, desperate sob, wishing furtively that he was somewhere else, and that his insides were being kept on the inside. That he was lying here, more naked and revealed than he had ever been, seemed incredulous, unreal.

He screamed a second time, and could taste blood in his mouth. His throat raw, his teeth pink with blood, he threw his head back, staring hopelessly at the white wall of the room. The first word that he had uttered in hours finally tore from his mouth.

"Noo," he yelled, the word prolonging and primitively voicing the terror and his abhorrence for what was being done to him.

"We are now opening the chest cavity," the surgeon said, nervously addressing the camera, "by means of cracking open the ribs."

The sound of his chest being cracked open; the sudden feeling that he was, in his entirely, completely exposed to the world; and the sudden sensation that he was being spilled all over the room, caused him, finally, to lose consciousness.

"Babe," a voice said. Slowly, Lana opened her eyes. Her mouth felt dry and her brain was surely swelling, based on the amount of pain in her head. There was no doubt about it--this was the worst hangover she'd ever had.

The room she was in was bright, and the light bit at her headache; she forced her eyes to remain open so that she could observe her surroundings.

She was in a large bachelor apartment. It was surprisingly well furnished, a large convection stove and stainless steel fridge visible in the kitchen, and set of leather couches near a flat screen television. It was very classy, albeit colourless.

She looked next, and hesitantly, at the person in bed next to her.

It was Viktor. His strong jaw and angelic features were no less striking in the morning, and he seemed barely awake, lying across her torso, with his head snuggled between her bare breasts and his arms holding her tightly.

This wasn't the way she would have expected a one-night stand to end up. She had always assumed that it would be similar to the way it had been portrayed in movies: the man, far less attractive in daylight, would be up early, throwing clothes her way and ushering her out the door of his messy apartment. Viktor, however, was even more gorgeous with the sun falling across his face, and was obviously perfectly happy for her to stick around.

She thought about the night before, when he had guided her gently towards the door of the club, and then whispered softly into her ear in that tremendously sexy German accent, "Don't find yourself another boy too quickly, love. I'll be inside in an hour."

And though she had gone directly to the bar and let several boys buy her drinks, and despite the fact that she had danced with other boys, craving their touch, she had always faced away from them, and found someone new when she was bored.

When finally Viktor's hand had snaked around to her stomach from behind, he didn't immediately begin to grind as the other boys did. He had spun her around, pressing his face close to hers, and had taken her hand. That he kissed the hand before drawing her close struck a chord deep inside of her.

Something about his simple charm, or perhaps his almond-shaped green eyes, reminded her of feelings that had long past. It might have also contributed that the vodka in her stomach was tingling warmly in places other than her belly, but it was definitely his eyes that cemented her decision.

He wasn't quite as tall as Clark, but taller than Lex, so the kiss didn't strain her neck nearly as badly as it would have with Clark. She loved that she still needed to stretch upward to reach his lips.

A few drinks later, and they were flying down the empty, nighttime streets in his car (one impressive for a boy so young) towards Viktor's apartment. She didn't think about how scandalous this was, or the dangers of going home with someone she'd never met before. She never made the decision to stay the night, or to give herself to him to completely.

She just needed, so badly, to be touched. She needed to want to be touched, to not feel nauseous when a man's fingers ran over her breasts and down her stomach. She needed to feel love, no matter how drunkenly induced.

So she stayed.

Chloe had not slept that night. Of course, with the help of caffeine, she often spent sleepless nights at the Daily Planet, working tirelessly in a vain attempt to get herself noticed in the grand world of journalism. The night before, though, she had felt especially exhausted. Though she had helped Clark, in the past, with research, she had never helped Clark in this way--she was now sneaking through the forbidden recesses of the world web, looking for information on Clark's supposed kidnapping.

Because there was no other explanation for what had happened; Clark needed the key to get to the fortress. She gripped the key in her hand, now, as always, wondering in its ability to remain cold despite her sweating palm. She could not figure out why Clark might have used the key and then tossed it outside of the room. He would not have risked someone else finding it.

The first possibility that leapt into her mind, at the very beginning of the night, was that one of the scientists that he had worked with before the trial had betrayed him. They both knew that humans were so easily corruptible; the thirst for wealth, whether of money or knowledge, would drive people to monstrous actions.

It had taken her nearly two hours to break through the defenses of the government. She considered this quite the feat--upon commencement of that quest, she would not have been surprised if it had been impossible.

Lex Luthor's case was even more well-secured than any of the other trials. The part of the trial pertaining to Clark had another half-hour's worth of encoding to break through. Finally, though, she had the names of the scientists that had treated Clark at the laboratory.

There were seven of them. The file only listed their names and credentials, and once Chloe had copied this information, she got herself off of that website. Though she had disabled her cookies long before she ever even started hacking into government websites on a regular basis, she knew that they might have more sophisticated ways of tracking people, and she'd be no good to Clark if she was locked up for a federal offence.

Chapter Four

It had been the pain and shock of having his chest cavity opened that had forced him out of consciousness and into the realm of dreams. Though short lived, the brief loss of consciousness terrified him; but the epigrammatic vision that visited him was strangely comforting.

For a moment, his entire mind was filled with a blinding, white light. Suddenly, two faces persevered through the light, and they were the sad, smiling faces of his parents.

He couldn't tell at first exactly who they were. The woman, her eyes tragic and loving, looked neither like Martha nor Lara, but her motherly adoration for him, and her empathy for his plight were obvious. As the figures became clearer, he could tell precisely who they were.

His biological parents stood before him, and, for the first time since he had regained his memory of leaving Krypton, he gain a sense of love from them stronger than anything he had ever before experienced.

"They' re a great people,* Kal*-El,* they wish to be*," a voice, otherworldly and wise, said. Clark could feel his body convulsing, though whether these sensations were of the real world, or part of his dream, he did not know. His heart pounded; it was a strong, defiant action, as though by living, he might show his captors that he was worthy of freedom.

"They only lack the light..." the voice continued. The faces had faded from Clark's view, and suddenly he was left in darkness again. He could feel cool hands touching him, searching inside of him for that something that made him different, as though there would be a glowing light inside of him that would indicate that magic something.

"They only..." Clark's head was still thrown back, and it was causing breathing to be difficult; though his breathing was also being hindered by the cold air running over his exposed lungs. The sensation of his neck being stretched backward, of his conscious mind trying its best to get as far away from the pain as possible, struck him as almost a means of escape.

"They only lack the light..." Jor-El repeated.

Clark knew that he was close, now: it was that feeling of being almost awake, of being almost in control. His fingers tingled, and they drew into a fist, clasping tightly through the restraints. His muscles, weakened from the Kryptonite, tensed despite themselves.

" guide them."

Clark's eyes snapped open. He found that he was staring into the face of the scientist called Sean, who was hovering over his head. Clark's expression contorted, the entirety of the hate that he already felt for this man making Clark's face ugly and almost inhuman. His father's words began to permeate this hatred and Clark realized that he was here, on Earth, for a reason.

Though it felt as though there was an infinitely heavy weight pressing down on him, he jerked his hips upward, twisting them to one side, so that the green rock resting on his pelvis fell to the ground. The surgeon leapt back, letting out a gasp of surprise, and dropped his scalpel.

Clark could sense Sean moving across the room, going, not for the misplaced meteor rock, but for the door. Clark's strength, with the Kryptonite a little further away, now, began to grow. His heart still beat for an audience, but he knew that the wounds were healing.

With a roar of frustration, Clark thrashed against the restraints. Though his first attempt was entirely futile, he heard the metal holding him down crack against his second attack. It was only this evidence of weakening that gave him enough strength to try one more time.

The restraints shattered. Exhaling sharply in relief, he knew himself off the table, wanting to get as far as possible from the Kryptonite still on the ground with the surgeon.

He pulled himself along the ground, shocked by the amount of blood that was on the ground, on his hands, on his legs. He wondered if all of this blood had come from the wound on his chest; another terrifying thought crashed through his mind: he had no idea what they had done to him after he had lost consciousness.

As his strength continued to grow, he pulled himself into a sitting position and finally allowed himself to look down at his torso.

The incision had been extended to his belly-button, exposing organs and twisted intestines and so, so much blood. He watched as the skin began to knit itself together again, so unbelievably relieved that he did not look up when someone entered the room.

It was Sean. Clark pushed himself to his feet, telling himself that he needed only one more minute. He needed only one more minute, and then he could run.

But there was something held in Sean's hand that brought a rush of terror: it was a small remote control.

Reaching around to his back, Clark felt the lump where the box of lead sat just above his spine. He inhaled sharply and began to claw at the box, despite the awkward positioning, trying desperately to get it out from under his skin.

He could feel blood on his fingers.

"Honey," Sean said. He looked flustered and a little bit frightened, his blond hair tousled as though he'd run his fingers nervously through the gel. "You won't get far."

With all of his strength, Clark threw himself at Sean, wanting to throw aside his morals and appreciation for life and tear Sean's eyes from his sockets. His feet were barely off the ground when the consuming pain hit him. It wasn't Kryptonite resting near him; it was inside of him, tearing his veins and burning his lungs.

Spots clouded his vision. Sean came into view presently and smiled gently with his blue eyes.

"Don't blame this on me, darling," his slightly feminine voice cooed. "When you think of why you're here, think about the person that you sacrificed yourself for. You kept your secret your entire life, hun. Why did you give it away?"

He felt hands clasping his arms and drawing him up, despite the pain. Two large men held him upright and dragged him down a long, white hall. They dropped him, unceremoniously in his room, and Clark waited, forcing his face to remain blank, until the pain subsided.

It was only later that night, after he'd pulled himself into bed and was rubbing the tips of his fingers over the scar left on his chest, that the reality of Sean's words sunk into him.

He had sacrificed his freedom and wellbeing for Lana. He had loved that young, innocent Lana Lang with every fibre of his self, and it had been that feeling that had taken over the day that he had gone to her lawyer. Gone had been his instincts for survival and silent were his father's words in his mind--protect yourself,* protect your secret*. That day, he had forgotten that he was an alien, and one of the greatest mysteries to ever daunt a human scientist.

He hoped that she was safer, at least, from his sacrifice. He wondered what Lana was doing now.

Lana held her breath.

There was a head on her chest. The slight dizziness that had blurred her senses when she had first awoken had fallen away, like the veil covering the world was suddenly gone. The tremendousness of the situation hit her.

There was a head on her chest. His features, almost angelic, had left a soft, red impression on her skin; his hair, still gelled upward, was brushing her nipples as she breathed. Air from his nose tickled her stomach; his fingers, gripping her back, suddenly seemed hostile.

His second hand had moved around to the front of her hip, caressing the bone that jutted above her thigh. He was clearly being gentle, obviously very comfortable the way he was sleeping, and there was nothing in his expression or demeanor that suggested aggression.

But suddenly it was all Lana could feel.

Every place that they touched suddenly screamed at Lana. Take her, she could practically hear them yell. Take her by force.

She wasn't safe here. His hair was brushing over her sensitive nipple faster and faster; the quicker it brushed back and forth, the more she hyperventilated, wishing she were safe at home; wishing she were safe in the arms of someone else.

His face jumped, unbidden into her mind. Their features were similar; their eyes were the same almond shape and nearly identical ethereal colours. Their lips curled the same way when they smiled, but Viktor's nose was sharply angular. Likewise, Viktor's jaw was stronger, it had less potential to be soft; it was that jaw that struck her then.

Surely someone with such a demanding jaw line did not have the capability of loving her, of protecting her.

She realized then: had that been what she had been looking for? Had she been looking for love from this one night stand?

Roughly, she pushed Viktor's head off of her. Her hands shook as she gathered her clothes, throwing them on as soon as she found them, her socks, her pants, so that she was left holding her pink thong and one sock awkwardly in her hand. She stuffed them in her pocket and turned to leave.

"Hey," a voice said. He was smiling, as though happy to see her, but looked confused. "Don't I get a `good morning'?"

He rose from the bed gracefully and moved towards her, obviously not uncomfortable by his very blatant nudity. Lana stood stiffly as he placed his hand in the small of her back and pulled her into a kiss.

It only lasted for about a second; the moment that he touched her, he was no longer a strangely attractive German boy, he was something else. His lips became Lex's, trying to force a kiss out of her that night, his probing tongue compelling her lips to open at the same time that he pushed a hand between her legs--

"Stop," she said.

He did. Lana was surprised at how hurt he looked, but she broke eye contact and turned back to the door.

"Will you call me?" he asked, the disappointment in his voice making his accent more pronounced. He reached out and softly touched the pocket that he had placed his card in.

Without turning back, Lana whispered, "I don't know."

Chapter Five

Clark waited.

It was what he had spent the bulk of his day doing; he would watch the walls, he would watch the floor, he would watch his bed. He sometimes would strip his shirt off and look at the scar that ran thick down his chest.

He had assumed, after that first wretched surgery, that the scar would heal. Normally, even wounds caused by Kryptonite would disappear as soon as he was away from the influence of the rock. That this surgical scar was still angrily prominent scared him almost as much as the idea that his heart had just been beating for the world to see.

Clark stood up, his fingers still placed delicately on the raised pink line on his chest, and took four steps across the room.

When he turned around he realized something. He had noticed, of course, as soon as he had returned to the room, that the hole in the wall he had created earlier on was gone. He had not scrutinized the bed during his lengthy stay in the room because, for the most part, he had been lying in it.

Now though, he realized that the bed was further from the wall than it had been. With a furtive glance at the ceiling, as though checking for prying eyes, he moved tentatively towards a wall.

The pain hit him at full force and he grunted as he hit the ground. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked longingly at the wall.

It was almost half a foot further away than it had been. Reaching out with an arm, he couldn't even nearly touch it. The pain began to paint spots on his vision and he pushed on the floor, rolling himself over and away from the invisible hurtful boundary.

Once he was free of the affects of the Kryptonite in his back (he imagined a tiny lead box sliding closed) he sat on his heels and wondered, not for the first time, what time it was.

Sitting alone in this room, it was nearly impossible to tell. Based purely on the amount of time that seemed to have gone by, he could have been sitting in here for days or weeks, perhaps even as long as a month. It was only the intermittent hunger pangs that convinced him otherwise.

Based on his metabolic rate, he guessed that he'd been sitting here for about twelve hours. That meant that he'd been gone from the world for two days.

That it had been such a short time was incredulous to him. When he tried to remember his life before; its movements seemed so subtle; he almost sobbed in envy. Then, he could feel the wind; he could see shadows shifting and a voice always echoed in the distance. He hadn't realized that with every breath, he took the chance that none of it would ever move again.

And now, it didn't.

Now, there was silence so absolute it was painful. The air stagnated and he could smell the trace amounts of mould in the room. It was enough, sometimes, to make him gag.

He looked up at the ceiling and imagined he could see the sky. Closing his eyes, he saw a dark, clear, starry night and heard crickets and far away, the noise and bustle of nighttime Metropolis.

A voice, closer than the others, whispered; it was Lana. She had walked up the stairs of his loft and come up behind him, wrapping her arms around his stomach, holding him close.

It was her presence that forced him out of this wistful fantasy. He had given up so much for her.

His father... his childhood dream of having someone he could love and trust... and ultimately, his freedom.

His eyes snapped open.

It was still dark. Closing his eyes, he tried one more time. It was still dark. He held his hands in front of his face and saw nothing. Squinting at the blank space, he switched to X-ray vision and saw the bones of his hands among a sea of emptiness.

That this place had taken away his light as well terrified him. More than that, it brought to surface the enormity of the situation.

Though it seemed impossible to plan an escape when there are no windows and no doors, and no one went in or out, it was all somehow different now. It began to feel truly hopeless now that his vision was reduced to shapes and shades of almost black. He realized how alone he really was, and it wasn't long before he started to scream, praying that somehow, someone might hear him and open up that invisible trapdoor, letting light and fresh air floor the room.

Soon, though, his calls for help faded into shrieks of despair, and just before he fell asleep, the pain of hunger and anguish wracking his body, he accepted that salvation was not coming.

"There are several subtle differences to his physiology," Dr. Williams muttered, looking over the pictures. The video of the operation played silently off to one side, and on the other side, Sean stood, his arched eyebrows blond eyebrows nearly invisible in the bright light.

"The surgeon took biopsy samples of his tissue," Sean said brightly, gesturing to a row of test tubes. "He doesn't have cancer." He sounded amused.

"Look at this, though," Dr. Williams said. "His organs are all slightly larger than they should be. It wouldn't even be noticeable unless you were looking for it. The added weight from these organs would put too much strain on any human skeletal system. We should get an orthopedic specialist in to look at his bones."

"Doctor," Sean said, sounding hesitant for the first time. "I don't think it's such a good idea to bring in so many people. The surgeon alone--"

"Sean," the doctor laughed. "Did you really think that the two of us were going to study this being without help? A nice bonding activity for father and son, perhaps?" He scoffed again, and flipped the folder shut.

"I've already called someone else in," he said, looking up at Sean, who had an affronted look on his face. "Her name is Dr. Nineva Kowalski. She's that Polish doctor I told you about. She's a molecular biologist. Since we've been having trouble determining what exactly it is that makes Clark Kent so special using macrobiology, it's time to look a little closer."

Dr. Williams looked back at his pictures. "What are you peering over my shoulder for?" he asked sharply. "Don't pretend as though you understand any of this. I don't care what your Ph. D says. You're not a real doctor."

"Psychology is a science, sir," Sean said.

"Then use it to tell me something useful," the doctor snapped. Shrugging, as though he didn't much care what the other man thought, Sean moved across the large room to another set of televisions. They showed a teenage boy pacing a small, yellow room.

Putting a large pair of headphones over his ears, Sean used a mouse to scroll backwards through the film. He watched the blank screen for a long while, listening intently to the boy's--the subject's--begging, his sobs. He listened to the promises, the bargains, the anger, and finally, after hours of staring at the blank screen, he stood up.

The room was empty now. His father had left.

Moving aside the pictures of the creature's entrails, Sean sat himself on the chair that the doctor had previously occupied. He pulled out the notebook that he had been writing his observations in.

The subject, he wrote, was raised as a human,* and perhaps even believes that it is human*. He pushed away from the desk and rolled back over to the TV screen. He switched on two of the other televisions and unplugged the headphone, so that the noise, loud and crisp, filled the room.

Each screen divided into four, each quadrant showed a room, all of them painted that same, soft yellow, but inside the rooms were different people; all of them boys, all of them in their early twenties.

Sean scrolled backward, so that every screen turned black, and more than five voices called out of the darkness of their room.

As Sean listened, each voice hit him alone, and he separated the words of each boy from the others. That these boys were normal, that their own terrifying experience on the operating table had only confirmed that fact, was what made them useful. Clark Kent was not normal, and exactly what made him not normal was the mystery they were trying to unfold.

Still listening, he rolled back to the desk and continued writing.

However,* he has harbored a long time fear that he will be dehumanized*.* This is evident in his reaction from last night*.* Unlike the other subjects*,* he displayed an almost premature despair that betrayed that he knows*,* or at least suspects*,* that we will not let him go*,* and that it may be impossible to escape*.

Pulling his notebook onto his lap, he rolled across the floor again, and turned the screens off. Bending his arm and slouching awkwardly to write on his lap, he finished the note.

The subject,* despite his tremendously human outer appearance*,* is not a mutant or deviant of the species*.* The subject is not human*,* at all*.

Chloe took her hands off the keyboard for a moment and placed her thumb and finger of each hand on her eyelids. She held her eyes open manually as she contemplated the security on the website.

With an uncharacteristic burst of frustration, she stifled a scream of rage and knocked her empty mug of coffee onto the floor, where a pile of empty Styrofoam cups were littered. It was only now, when she was so close, that she had resorted to making her own caffeine.

Every scientist had checked out. They all held legitimate jobs, had viable references, and paid their taxes. Most of them had families. All of them had connections.

These links to high powered people seemed savory enough. Dr. Child had been friends with the judge who had tried Clark's case when they were in undergraduate school. Dr. Bowles had done charity cancer research that the judge's family had funded. There hadn't been any sort of indication to be found that would suggest that any of them would do anything to harm Clark, even in the name of science.

Chloe's next desperate attempt at finding a dark past had her looking through driver's license records on their distant relatives when she noticed something.

There was a man, Sean Williams, whose driver's license had been revoked due to mental incapacitation. Pursing her lips, Chloe highlighted the name, and put it into a search engine, more because she was curious than anything. After all, people had mentally ill offspring all the time, but it was her own experience with supposedly insane relatives that made her want to examine it further.

Behind a mentally ill mother was a scandal. Could there be one lurking behind this son, as well?

She breathed heavily through her nose when she saw what came up. Her immediate impression was how remarkable this boy's rsum was. He had graduated in the top of his class with a Bachelor's degree in psychological science, and then with a Masters in Freudian Psychology. He had written several papers and a book on Neo-Freudian theory; had speculated openly and to tumultuous appraise on Freud's many theories and had, when he started studying for his doctorate, openly declared his allegiance with such Existential philosophers as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.

It had been after the completion of his doctorate that he began to get a little... funny. Chloe was able to find, quite easily, documents of his behavior, because he was featured in the media several times. His father, Dr. Williams Sr. had been quite famous in the medical community because he had discovered several new antibiotics, and had also pioneered a wide spectrum vaccine for the flu. His son, however, received much more negative publicity.

After studying Existentialism and the Humanistic approach to psychology, Sean Williams had become very public about his views. He was no longer content to have papers published in medical journals, or to write books that rarely sold. He wanted the whole world to know what he believed.

Everyone, he was quoted as saying, is striving to become a person. A true human, a fully functioning person, transcends all others. Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, he said, these were self-actualized people. Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Scweitzer, these people were real. The rest of us, those people who sink into their shit-hole of life and forget to live, they aren't people. Those living without hope, the ones expecting to die, wanting it, even, they don't count.

People have been encultured, he said, and it's stifling their creativity. Chloe watched a video of him speaking at a conference, and was shocked at his passion; he would grab his hair and say, your spontaneity is inhibited. Your childlike awe is gone. You aren't human, none of you. You are all lower beings, wading in your own filth, you damnable creatures.

Without that sparkle in your eye, he said, you're all dead, just taking up space and breathing our air.

He suggested mass genocide, a review stated incredulously. He declared most of the world unfit and unworthy.

It was then that his father, widely respected, stepped in.

Sean was put into an institute. Sean stayed there for years. His father visited him every other Friday, and Chloe watched their recorded sessions.

Neither man talked. Dr. Williams would sit across from his disgraced son for one hour.

Wordlessly, he would leave.

Chloe read the psychiatrist's notes on Sean. He was a model patient, knew the system from the inside, and said just the right things in order to ensure a speedy release.

Three years and seven months after he was incarcerated, Sean was released. He disappeared from the world.

There were no more records of his whereabouts. He never bought a car or got a job. He didn't withdraw money from his chequing account. He didn't apply for a credit card.

As Clark had done, he had disappeared. And though Clark was a relatively uneducated farm boy alien and Sean was a lunatic Ph. D., they did have one thing, one person, in common.

Dr. Williams.

Chapter Six

He was there, again, and he watched her.

Lana wasn't sure what she had been expecting; she had dressed up pretty, downed an impressive pre-drink with Lois, and then headed to the club.

The large sign announced that the club, the Metro, was open all night--ladies free `til twelve.

The lineup was short. It was one thirty already; people were trickling out of the club, rather than in. Viktor stood there, though, as though he'd known she'd come, and he offered her his hand.

The world swam slightly around his face and, without hesitation she took it, grasping Lois's small hand tightly in her other.

Like a grownup version of a pretend train they weaved their way through the club. Viktor turned and moved slowly backwards, the crowd parting for him; he kissed his way up Lana's arm and drew her close. Lois, the ever reddening caboose, broke off from their metaphorical train and left them alone.

"I missed you," he whispered into her ear, letting his hand wrap around her so that she couldn't run as she'd done before. From where his lip hovered, she could feel his breath and now it felt warm. Now, with reality dulled that little bit, it felt welcoming. She tilted her chin up and lied into his ear, about as far away from her as Clark's would be.

"I missed you, too," she muttered.

And then she let him kiss her. He trailed his lips behind her ear, softly caressing her neck as his other hand moved to the small of her back, pulling her closer so that she could feel his pelvis swaying to the heavy beat.

He spun her suddenly and placed his hands on her hips, still forceful, still pushing against her.

Closing her eyes, Lana immersed herself in the music. Her hands snaked up her body, hesitating on his fingers, much softer than she would have expected, and then past her head and back, feeling the sharp angles of his face; lingering on his cheek bones. Finally, she twined her fingers in his hair and pulled his head down to her neck.

Viktor breathed in Lana's scent and found himself imagining the last time he'd seen her, her clothes thrown on, one foot out the door. Her head tilted backward and her lips found his, powerful, demanding. His hands split, then, departing from her hips and traveling to more erogenous areas of her body.

With one large hand on the crotch of her jeans, and the other resting just below the wire of her bra, he forced her even closer. He felt, rather than heard, the gasp escape her lips, and wondered if she'd let him keep her this time.

If, after a spectacular drunken night, she'd stay for breakfast.

It was the next morning, when he woke up to an empty bed and found that his flighty houseguest had forgotten her stockings that he realized just how terrified of him she must be.

The reason for her terror; her inability to let him touch her, Viktor knew all too well.

"How is she?" a breathless voice asked, the static and wind coming across louder on his cell phone than the words.

"She's alive, Mr. Luthor," Viktor said, his accent heavy. "But she still resists contact when she's sober. She doesn't respond to my calls. She was gone before I even woke up this morning."

"Get to her when she's sober, Viktor," the voice responded. "I want answers, or your next pay cheque is going to get lost in the mail."

"Yes, sir," the German responded. He closed his cell and sighed, looking morosely around his large apartment. It was clean and simple, not because he was a tidy guy, but because he'd only just moved in.

Slowly, he pulled his boxers back on and got out of bed. He scowled at his cell phone for a minute longer before dialing Lana's number.

"He's not human," Dr. Williams slowly. "What is he, then? A wholly mammoth?"

Sean dropped a textbook onto the table in front of his father. "He's a non-being," he said shortly.

"Not this crap, again," sighed Dr. Williams. "I thought they chug-a-lugged all that garbage out of your head in the facility I had you in."

"Hardly," he scoffed. "I just came to realize that my work can be better done when the world learns to trust and respect me again."

"So, you're planning on killing every person who hasn't actualized? Unhappy people can just go ahead and snuff it? Suicide for the depressed should be promoted?" Dr. Williams asked, portraying clearly how ridiculous he thought the idea was. "All this psychology mumbo-jumbo..."

"You're just uneducated," Sean cried, picking up the textbook and slamming it down onto the table again.

Dr. Williams raised his eyebrows. He, who had saved an average of 700 people from dying of the flu each year, and countless others from having to suffer from such symptoms as fever, sore throat and muscle pains--he who had succeeded in discovering and multiplying a low grade poison that people of all ages like to have pumped into them at the slightest hint of cough, puss or pustules--he, who had created the antibiotic that could relieve thousands of woman from having to experience a burning sensation when they pee--he was uneducated?

"Ha," he said, dryly.

"His overt sense of hopelessness will be impossible for him to overcome," Sean stated. "He cannot become fully functioning. It's better than we euthanize him."

"Have you ever considered that the reason he has all these powers--the strength, the keen senses, the healing capabilities--is because he is, in fact, fully functioning?" Dr. Williams asked, sarcastically.

Sean appraised his father for a moment.

"He may have transcended us?" he asked slowly. "You think that he has been rewarded and is a higher being?"

"It sure beats the hell out of being a non-being," Dr. Williams muttered. "Go slam your fingers in a door, or something. Appreciate life and work towards fully owning your existence. Just stop acting like a loon."

Sean turned and left the room, leaving the textbook for his father to read. He returned to his monitor and turned it on, placing the headphones over his ears. The boy was pacing.

Clark moved the short distance between the bed and the toilet. After briefly appraising the shiny, knee high bowl, he turned and marched back to the bed. The night before, when his situation had seemed to helpless, had, upon morning, given him a new strength.

He would get through this. He had to.

He would escape. He would escape for his mother, for Chloe, for... for Lana, even. He would escape... for the world. There was so much he had not yet done; he could have helped so many people, and would, he would, if he was given the chance.

The next time they brought him out of this room, he decided, he would do it. He would tear into his back and break loose the killer box hooked into his ribs. He would ignore the pain, he would dismiss the terror of such self-mutilation and then he'd run.

Without the box they'd have no way of stopping him.

And though he wanted, just a little, to punish the people who'd done this to him, he wouldn't. He'd just run, and put as much distance between him and this wretched place.

Then, he'd train. He'd become as strong as he could so that he could protect the rest of the world from people like these.

"It's amazing," the woman said, peering through the microscope again. "I've never seen anything like it."

"What can you tell us about this creature?" Dr. Williams asked.

"Its DNA is different from human DNA," she said, without looking up from the lens. "Human DNA is double stranded, and the two strands are held together by hydrogen bonds, which you know are quite strong. This DNA is double stranded, but it's not held together by hydrogen bonds; they seem to be purely ionic bonds."

Sean entered the room, then, and both of the room's occupants looked up.

"Sean," Dr. Williams said jovially. "This is Dr. Nineva Kowalski. She's the molecular biologist I told you about."

The woman, tall and awkward looking, with a long archaic nose and wide, brown eyes, offered him her thin-fingered hand. After firmly shaking his rather weak hand, she returned to the microscope.

"Ionic bonds are what hold metal together," Dr. Williams stated. "Are all the bonds in his body the same?"

She looked into another microscope, pausing for a minute before nodding. "He really quite literally is," she said slowly, "a man of steel."

Chapter Seven

Lex Luthor was shocked to learn that he wouldn't have to wait until the appeal to have a shot at freedom. He hadn't even been in jail a week before an unfamiliar face showed up across the plastic barrier, with the phone pressed to his ear.

"You've been acquitted on all charges," he said stiffly.

"Sorry?" Lex asked, confused. He looked keenly at the man, waiting for him to repeat himself, but he realized that the phone had slipped from his hands after he'd heard those first, unexpected words.

The piece of paper was lid under the barrier between them, and Lex stared at finely typed words and a million signatures. Holding the phone to his face again, he repeated, "Acquitted?"

"Acquitted?" Lana exclaimed, slamming the paper down in front of Lois. Lois glared up at her and took a swig of her coffee.

"Are you just getting in now?" Lois asked, sliding a large pair of sunglasses back up her nose.

"Acquitted," Lana repeated.

"Son of a bitch is getting out of jail?" Lois asked, her eyes focusing slowly on the paper in front of her. The front page featured a picture of Lex overlaid with a smaller picture of Lana, looking scandalized. Lois looked up to a nearly identical expression on the real Lana's face.

"Are you pissed?" Lois asked.

Lana stared at the photo in the paper. Lex's bald head looked dull in newsprint, but his eyes glittered despite the paltry sheen of the photo.

"Are you scared?" Lois asked.

The terrified thought, He' s going to kill me, leapt into Lana's mind.

"Where's Chloe?" Lana asked.

Chloe had been on a Luthor's list before. She had faked her own death to flee his clutches, aided, however, by her own erstwhile husband. What will I have to do, Lana thought, desperately, to escape him?

She would need someone's help, as well, someone more powerful than Lex, someone more trustworthy than Lionel, someone like--

"Clark?" Chloe asked, squinting at the computer screen. She'd stopped sleeping, forgotten about eating: she was so close.

She was looking at some sort of video feed at this point. Printouts and screenshots littered the desk around her, and she knocked them hastily aside, grasping frantically for a blank piece of paper. She winced and recoiled at the sound of a scream, but forced her eyes to remain open. A bare chest was featured on the screen, zoomed in close so that the face and legs of this torso were completely out of view.

There were hands, though, holding delicately a shining green scalpel, and they were moving in now, to lengthen the incision.

Before they made contact, though, a voice, pompous and high pitched said, "We don't have enough information to go ahead and give you anesthetic..."

Chloe's hand hovered over the paper, hoping that someone would say something useful: something that would betray their location, or the name of the people in the room. She suspected... she wasn't sure, but she suspected, based on the greenness of the knife, based on how she'd found the site--

"Though the incisions were made with ease using the meteor rock scalpel..." a voice said, speaking over the background screams; the voice, nasal and irritating, confirmed what Chloe had suspected.

The chest that was being opened up--

That chest belonged to Clark.

"Clark," Chloe whispered, tears welling in her eyes, "what have they done to you?"

Those same words were repeated, differently though; with a touch of amusement and even a hint of... jealousy.

"I always knew," Lex said, gazing at the tethered creature in front of him, "that you were different."

Lex walked around the table where Clark lay, held down with meteor rock shackles, the skin below his eyes grey; bruised.

"You never trusted me," Lex muttered, a trace of sadness, of regret, creeping into his voice.

Clark raised his chin, as though determined to, despite his waning strength and awkward horizontal position, look Lex in the eye.

"You put me here," Clark said. He didn't sound angry. The disappointment in his voice, however, hit Lex like a super-powered punch.

"I knew," Lex continued, "I always knew," he repeated, "that there was something not quite human about you."

"I could say the same, Lex," Clark replied. "After what you did to Lana," he said, his voice strong, "I would say that there wasn't anything human left."

"You lied to me," Lex hissed, and, before he could stop himself, he lashed out, landing his fist just below where the dull scar on Clark's chest ended. Despite Clark's weakened state, the blow hurt Lex much more than it did Clark.

Lex doubled up, clutching his hand to his chest. When he straightened, the look on Clark's face was so venomous that he wished he'd avoided eye contact. Clenching his jaw, Lex forced himself not to blink.

He was staring at Clark, his first true friend, the boy that he'd trusted, and longed to become close to. This boy, with whom he's created this unnatural friendship; Lex had always been so fixated with him, how he'd always do the right thing; how he always merited forgiveness.

But the way that Clark was looking at him now, he wondered how he'd ever seen anything else.

Clark hated him.

And finally, he spoke. "I protected you," Clark whispered. "There were so many times... you have no idea..."

Lex froze; he wished then, that things could have been different.

"That day on the bridge," Clark continued, his voice quiet; cold, "changed my life. Suddenly, I wasn't just a kid anymore, Lex. You should have crushed my body between your expensive car and the cement of that guard rail and sent a dead body to the bottom of the river. You should have sent two dead bodies to the bottom of the river, that day."

Clark strained against the shackles, then, as though he longed to leap at Lex and shake some sort of understanding into him.

"I took bullets for you, Lex," he said, yelling suddenly. "And not only the kind that don't hurt me." Clark thought of the time that he'd stopped that kid from killing Lex, and the kid had realized Clark's weakness. Thought of the time, long ago, when Lex had shot him so many times and Clark had taken each painful blow; not wanting to risk hurting his hypnotized friend. Clark appraised the confused look on Lex's face. "Did you think," Clark asked, quiet again, "that you're the first one to use the meteor rocks against me?"

Realization dawned suddenly, and Lex exclaimed, "The silver rock, it affected you, too."

Clark said nothing.

"I've had people combing Smallville," he said softly. "They found other colours."

Clark didn't reply, but he half hoped that they'd whip out a red rock around him. With lowered inhibitions he might have the strength to tear into his back and rip out the lead box; he might not hesitate to pull harder as his ribs broke and his own blood welled around his fingers.

"Doesn't this weigh on your mind?" Clark asked softly, allowing his disgust to seep into his voice. "That I befriended you; that I loved you like the brother I'd always wanted, that I hero-worshiped you, and you put me into this place? You took away my freedom; my dignity, when all I wanted from you was... some semblance of your true self?"

Lex slipped from the edge of guilt that he'd been teetering on and fell into the darkness of anger and the simple one-sidedness of hate. "All you wanted was me?" Lex asked. His voiced grew into a roar and he yelled, "This is me, Clark. I am not the good person you hoped I could be. I was raised in a household of despair; my mother was driven to madness by the pure immorality of my father. I took the blame for her crimes and unwittingly stumbled into a life where my father despised me and my mother despised herself. After her death--"

"Stop," Clark interrupted, his voice raised, but not filled with the anger that Lex had, "making excuses." His incredulity was betrayed not only in his voice, but in the slight, amazed smile that had formed on his lips. "What did I ever do to you?" he asked, quiet again.

"You lied to me," Lex repeated, still loud, still angry; still self-righteous. "Look at what you're capable of and you never told me: your supposed best friend."

"Thanks to you, Lex," Clark said, anger finally growing in his hoarse voice, "I'm capable of little other than being a lab rat." He strained forward, the Kryptonite in his restraints cutting his wrists. "Don't you think this is why, Lex? Don't you think I've been terrified, my entire life, that I'd end up someone's research material? Do you have any idea what its like to have to hide your true self--do you believe that I didn't want, every day, to be able to tell you, to be able to tell anyone, everything?"

The anger died, suddenly, and it left a deadened, hopeless shell of a boy, resting slack against the shackles holding him in a vulnerable, horizontal position.

"You disgust me," he said, finally, sounding weary; sounding used.

Shaking, Lex turned away from the sight of Clark Kent, a boy once so vicariously alive and strong, who was now staring, with his suddenly tear filled eyes, at the cold, white ceiling.

When he reached the door, he turned back.

A tear fell down Clark's face and settled in his ear.

Chapter Eight

It was as though watching that video, witnessing the terrifying cruelty that was being inflicted on her best friend, had lit some sort of metaphorical fire under Chloe. Her fingers blurred on the keyboard, and she had a brainwave of almost supernatural proportions. As she bypassed the security on this heavily protected website, she wondered, not the first time, if it wasn't her pure brilliance that fueled her hacking ability.

She had been part of Lex Luthor's laboratory once.

And she had confirmed that Clark was, indeed, in Lex Luthor's laboratory. She was close, closer than she'd ever been, to discovering the location of the laboratory. The information files were online, and she'd been working on getting through the same firewall for nearly two hours.

But she was close.

It was for that reason that she ignored the ringing telephone on her desk and her violently vibrating cell in her pocket. So Lana finally gave up calling and loaded her car with some self defense tools. In a fit of sudden paranoia, she paid a noisy customer at the Talon to turn her car on for her.

She drove, much over the speed limit, along back roads until she arrived at the Daily Planet, where she suspected Chloe was probably hard at work. Lana hadn't spoken much to Chloe since Clark had disappeared. She knew that Chloe knew more than she was letting on about where Clark had disappeared to, and was angry that Chloe was, not for the first time, covering for Clark.

Now, though, she needed help. She truly believed that Lex's first order of business, now that he was out of prison, would be to find a way to make her pay. Because of her, he'd been dethroned, humiliated, and left alone.

Little did she suspect that Lex's obsessive energy had shifted back to his first, more intense fascination. Clark was a mystery that Lex could never fully explain, and Lana's appeal, her unsolvable aspect, was that she could love someone like Lex.

Since she had confirmed his worst fears, that she had, all along, loved Clark, his attention--now more bitter, less wondering and mostly hate filled--was turned back to Clark. Clark, the enigma. Clark, that powerful, modest, selfless creature.

"Far most abundant," Lex said, matter-of-factly to the boy, who had been returned to his flat-out position on the operating table after another hopeless night in his cell, "was the green meteor rock. We've found that it has mutating properties on most humans, but haven't before witnessed the effect it has on you."

Lex fingered that dangerous remote in his lap, running his palm over the button that could cause Clark indescribable pain, and then over the one that would make it stop. The effect of the green rock was epitomized inside of the test subject; with this in his hand, Lex was all powerful. This button simplified Clark to the extreme: Clark on; Clark off.

Because of this, Lex had the sudden compulsion to level with Clark. To speak to him as they used to, eye to eye; he knew that he held, in his hand, the failsafe, that could switch Clark from super-powered-whatever to writhing-screaming-nothing. He reached towards Clark, who flinched away from him, and undid the shackles.

Clark sat up. At this angle, Lex could see what damage had really been done to his ex-best friend. The boy was pale, and thinner than Lex had ever seen him. His face, usually so pink and quick to smile, was hardened and distant, as though his feelings were buried deep beneath this visage; as though apathy were his only remaining defense.

Sean entered the room then, holding two boxes made of impenetrable lead.

"We did manage to find a few other varieties," Lex continued, holding out his hands. Sean placed in each the new box. Lex peered curiously at the labels.

"The silver, which you've previously been affected by, was curiously absent," he said. "But we found something else."

He opened the box swiftly, as though the element of surprise were crucial, and pushed it onto Clark's chest, knocking him back onto the table.

Lex expected him to scream. Lex expected him to writhe.

Clark threw his head back and gripped Lex's hand tightly, holding the rock to his chest; Lex, nervous now, was unable to get away, and his other hand, wrapped around the remote, somehow wouldn't move to press the button. His curiosity was so much stronger than his trepidation.

When Clark leaned forward again, and slowly looked at Lex, he was shocked to note that Clark's eyes, usually so honest and clear, were suddenly red. Just for a moment, they shone the same colour as the rock pressed to Clark's chest.

"You'll like this one, Lex," Clark said softly. "I know I do."

And the boy's voice was so unlike Clark's that a question, a stupid question, escaped Lex's lips.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"That's different," Clark said, all traces of despair gone from his voice. "Usually the question that you ask is, what are you?" He smiled, but it wasn't the trademark Clark Kent grin. It was a wide, cocky grimace. "I'm Clark Kent," he said, as though speaking to a stupid child. "I'm just Clark Kent, a little different. And it's not like you haven't met this Clark before. I came to your engagement party, remember? I made off with your girl." He wrinkled his nose and his eyes curved into twin mischievous smiles. "And made out with her."

Lex's mouth opened slowly as he made the connection. He took a breath, about to speak, about to ask his next probing question, but Clark, with the red Kryptonite still pressed to his chest and Lex's face so close to his, spoke first.

"I'm sure you hated getting my seconds," he said. "I broke Lana's heart and you scooped up the pieces and pretended that it was what you had desired all along. She wanted me," he paused, and chuckled, "you wanted me," he added. "You two made a hell of a pair. Acting as though you both hated me, while secretly wishing that you could duke it out with her, just fight over me; both of you refusing to accept that you'd been rejected." Clark closed his eyes for a second. These words felt better than anything he could have imagined right now. They felt better than freedom; they felt better than the sun. The red rock held to his chest and his nails digging into the back of Lex's hand, it was better than sex.

"Pale, lanky," Clark continued, his voice quiet, "you're nothing but a boy afraid to grow up because he knows he would be nothing but a disappointment; an abomination. So, you blame your failures on the weakness of others and rely on your money and creepy charm to lure girls into marriage after disastrous marriage."

That Clark was talking like this was shocking to Lex, but he steeled himself; they were only words, and no matter how they stung, he would not show it. He was Lex Luthor, and he would not break.

"Does it make you feel like less of a man," Clark hissed, "to know that the only way to fuck your wife was to rape her?"

Lex froze.

"The meteor shower left you bald and impotent," Clark continued. "You faked a pregnancy to trap Lana in a loveless marriage; you lied to her, and lied to her about lying to her, so that you could pretend to be better than me. At least--"

Lex wrenched his hand away, and the rock fell to the ground. The vivid red dulled into a dark maroon. Clark was silent for a moment.

"At least," he continued, his voice quiet and defeated once more, "at least I never told her that I was honest."

"How did you know?" Lex asked. He was livid, practically blinded with the anger, jealousy and self-loathing that he felt at the moment. Everything that had been thrown at him slid past him and the one part that stuck was Clark's last accusation.

The forged pregnancy.

"I overheard your father talking about his suspicions. I didn't believe it, and didn't want to mention it to Lana without first confirming it. I planned to, but then," Clark pushed himself up off the table and looked hard at Lex for a moment. "Then, you raped her and she lost the baby. She thought, I mean, that she lost the baby. So I didn't know. Now I do."

With shaking hands, Lex picked up the fallen rock. Clark sounded normal again; like an animal forced back into captivity, his eyes looked blank, hopeless. Lex turned to Sean. "Did you get all that?" he asked. "The shifted demeanor, the... hatred?"

Lex had never felt like this before; he had never felt as though someone had gotten the best of him. He turned back to Clark, and let his anger bubble forth.

"You have no idea what you're talking about," he yelled. This time, he knew better than to hit Clark; instead, he attacked the equipment in the sparse room. With a scream of frustration, he tore the heart monitor from the floor and threw it, so that Sean had to scuttle out of the way. The red rock, secured now in its lead box, was also heaved Sean's way, and it bounced off his chest, knocking him backward, so that the box landed, closed and harmless, on the floor near Clark's head.

He picked up the controller that could cause Clark so much pain, and spun a dial near the top that Clark had hitherto not noticed. Lex's rage, his need to destroy expensive equipment when he was angry, was not scary for Clark. This was.

Lex pressed the green button.

Expecting crippling pain, Clark tensed himself, but instead a warm bloom of hurt started at his chest, near where the Kryptonite was located and spread slowly to every tingling extremity. He shifted uncomfortably, not used to this lesser degree of pain, wondering if he'd lose consciousness, or if Lex would just leave him like this.

"Stand up," Lex said. His chest heaved as he reached forward and undid Clark's remaining restraints. Shaking slightly from the nauseating ache in his body, Clark pushed himself up. He was hurting too much to try to run right now. He could just barely keep himself from collapsing.

It was then that Lex let loose on him. He packed into every punch nearly six years of jealousy, years of a friendship gone to shit, years of wanting everything that Clark had. He hated that what Clark had said, even while under the influence of the red meteor rock, had affected him like this. But Clark's parents had never really loved him, and Clark had never really seen him as a friend, and Lana had always wanted Clark.

He punched Clark's face, his detest of that beautiful smile, his love of that smile, the sole reason he couldn't feel the pain of Clark's teeth smashing against his fist. He didn't notice that his own blood mixed with Clark's as he crumpled Clark with a blow to the stomach.

Lex fell to the ground beside Clark and twined his fingers in that long, brown hair. It didn't need to be said that he wanted that hair more than almost anything.

Their faces close together, Clark spat blood at him.

"I don't need to be dosed to know," Clark said, panting, "that you're less of a man if you need to have your ex-best friend captured by military men, locked up and tortured for weeks, but then still needs to have seven armed guards standing by before you even try to beat me down." He laughed, and blood spattered on Lex's face.

"Not to mention the fact that the meteor rock has me crippled and helpless."

Lex pushed his head away and took solace in the wince that Clark's face twisted into when his head hit the floor.

"Stand up," Lex said again.

Clark pushed himself to his feet and stood, wavering and defiant, to face Lex. Gesturing with his head, Lex indicated that Clark should remount the table where he had been fixed.

Once his legs were attached to the table again, Clark felt the soft flow of poisonous radiation die out. Almost immediately, the wounds on his face began to heal, but, like the surgical wounds on his chest, they only closed. His hands crept to his face and he felt that there were still scars, weaving angrily down from his left eye and straight back from his lip, like a cruel smile.

He stared at Lex. Silently, Lex stared back.

Finally, Lex spoke.

"We're more alike than you know," he said. Clark didn't reply.

"Together," Lex said, "we've managed to destroy the spirit of one Lana Lang."

"That was you," Clark said, the effort of speaking physically painful. Voice quiet, defeated, as though he'd already said this line, he said, "You raped her."

"She came to me broken," Lex said. "You broke her heart, Clark. Do you think that she would have given herself to someone like me otherwise? You knew what I was capable of. I might have been the car that hit her, but you pushed her in front of me."

"She's depressed, now?" Clark asked, forcing tears back and reminding himself of what he'd sacrificed for her, how he was trapped here, alone and helpless, because of her. He didn't care about Lana. She was just another flawed human, and though she seemed innocent, she had hurt him as badly as he'd hurt her.

Lex, Clark and Lana seemed to be three points of an ominous tower, each part beating at the other points, until the entire structure would be ready to collapse.

"She's a whore," Lex hissed. "She gets drunk every night, and she goes to clubs, and she fucks whatever pretty boy strikes her fancy."

Clark froze.

"You're lying," Clark said stonily.

"No," Lex replied, a trace of sadness entering into his voice. "So we're partners, you and I."

It was that, the flicker of regret in Lex's eyes, that convinced Clark that he wasn't lying. His stomach twisted as he imagined it--Lana grinding up against some faceless boy, her heavily painted face smiling seductively and long fingered hands tracing their way around Lana's scantly dressed body...

Lex watched Clark's face. His expression, usually such an accurate indicator of what was going on behind those green eyes, remained passive. His eyes were somewhere else, though. Perhaps imagining Lana's betrayal, perhaps pretending he was with her, and could protect her.

He opened, slowly, the second lead box. There was no change in Clark's face; if he felt the effects, he wasn't letting Lex know. The rock had the same chemical makeup of the other rocks, the only difference was that, instead of glittering emerald green, or venomous red, it was a threatening, deadly black.

Lex lifted from the box, and, in one swift motion, pressed it to Clark's chest.

Clark's eyes bulged.

Lex hoped he was in pain.

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