Clark rolled over in his bed, curling himself around a pillow as he tried to relax. His mind was filled to capacity, or so he felt, with all the new information his parents had revealed to him. The visual images their words had given him were priceless. He clung to them as if they were talismans - keys to unlocking his own memories.
They had never asked just what Clark himself remembered, and Clark never supplied them with anything. The bits and pieces he did recall, were a confused jumble of words and images he didn't understand. Some came accompanied with emotions, and some of those emotions were sadness and fear. For a long time he simply avoided going back to them, preferring instead to live in the present where there was comfort and love. When he got older and became curious, he found his few memories faded remnants of what they once were and of even less value to him than before.
He closed his eyes, trying to gather all the stray thoughts and memory fragments into some sort of cohesion. Following them back was like crossing a stream over stepping stones that grew fewer in number, and further apart as he progressed, until he stood in the middle of the swirling waters with no option but to turn around. Just once, Clark thought, it would be nice to get to the other side.
It was important to him to recall at least one memory prior to his life as "Clark Kent." He felt it would reveal to him who he really was beneath the veneer of humanity he'd raised around himself. He wanted to touch the alien part of him, as if doing so would make his amazing abilities more - normal. Who was the little boy Martha and Jonathan Kent found? Where had he come from? Where had he been going and why? All he wanted was one small tidbit, not necessarily a full fledged answer, just a piece of the puzzle. The spaceship remained locked, the key lost again, but Clark himself held the key to his own mind. Why couldn't he open it?
Sighing, he rolled over again and looked at the clock. It's face was dark. With the distraction of trying to remember his past, he'd forgotten his present and the fact that he'd broken the alarm clock. He snaked a hand out from under the covers and retrieved his watch from the bedside table. The sight of the time made him groan. It was three a.m. and he'd still not gotten any sleep. It didn't particularly need it, but he liked it, and he was aware of the lack of it when he did not get enough.
He sat up, fluffed the pillows, and flopped back down again in a face first sprawl over the length and breadth of the bed. The mattress groaned. The frame creaked but held, and Clark growled as one foot popped out from under the quilt to dangle over the edge. When he'd been small he hated having any part of himself hanging over the edge of the bed.
"Monster," he'd said, pointing at the dark recesses below the box spring.
"No such thing as monsters." Martha would chide, and tucked him in with a kiss, making sure the quilt was snug around his body none-the-less.
Clark wondered if she had known, even then, that in Smallville there were such thing as monsters. They, like himself, had come with the meteors.
He pulled his foot back under the quilt...
Then chuckled to himself as he thought about monsters. He'd picked up the notion that they existed from television. He'd learned a lot of things from television, but even more from his parents. Jonathan and Martha watched very little television. They were too busy running the farm, and as much in love with each other as they'd been when they met, they were busy being together. When Clark came along they'd dusted off the set in an effort to teach him to speak. They hadn't realized he already knew English and was perfectly capable of not only understanding them, but speaking to them, he just didn't.
Clark frowned into his pillow. How? Why?
Had he been programmed with the basic survival skills living on Earth required? There was a frightening thought. He wasn't sure he liked the idea that someone had poked around in his brain without his knowledge, planting things in it he didn't remember and might not want to possess. It only further enhanced the already unnerving situation of having a body that did odd things. The situation with the red meteor rock had badly frightened him regarding the consequences should he lose control of his mind. Visions of himself being the next Terminator did not make him feel any better.
He had understood what people said to him, and could respond appropriately, yet he distinctly recalled times, particularly in kindergarten, when some common words and phrases the other children knew, eluded him. He hadn't been able to read very well when he started school, just like the other kids. He picked it up immediately, demonstrating at an early age a phenomenal memory, but it was a visual memory. Recalling where he came from and how he'd learned the English language was another thing entirely.
Frustrated, Clark raised his head, balling the pillow up under his shoulder as he turned to face the opposite direction from the blank face of the alarm clock. It seemed to mock him, it's blankness mimicking the blankness in his mind. He'd heard of people reclaiming lost memories through hypnosis and wished he dared. The prudence of such an action was circumspect, if hypnosis would even work on him in the first place. There would be no telling what he might divulge under its influence; perhaps more than they wanted to know or reveal.
He yawned, and willing himself to lie still, closed his eyes. His thoughts still went around and around, trying to grasp anything that resembled a tangible memory. Snippets of things drifted by his consciousness. Like a man in a money booth, dollar bills whirling around in him in a tornado-like frenzy, he clutched frantically at anything he could. He thought he remembered the acrid smell of fires burning, fires set off by the meteor strikes. His mother's perfume, which she still favored, and the musty scent of the blanket she'd wrapped him in, were very prominent.
They'd driven back into town, Jonathan had told him, in a battered truck that barely made it to forty-five before shuddering and shimmying as if it would shake itself apart. Their progress had been further hampered by the fact there was a spaceship in the bed, and the cab was filled to capacity with three adults and two children. Lionel Luthor had urged them to go faster because he...
~~Was afraid, terrified, feeling the faltering breath of the child in his arms and begging God not to take him because it would destroy the woman he loved....~~
Clark sat bolt upright in bed with a gasp. Confused and disoriented he glanced around his bedroom, almost expecting to be sitting in that truck again. The sound of an engine strained to its limits still lingered in his ears, and his heart still pounded with the fear he'd felt. His hand was shaking as he reached out for his watch.
It was only ten minutes past the time he'd first looked at it.
"How can that be?"
He had to have fallen asleep and dreamed. It had been just a brief doze, wherein all his trouble thoughts had ganged up on him to produce a very short and very vivid dream.
Clark lay down again, rolling over onto his back to stare up at the ceiling. A spattering of stars, glowing pale yellow in the darkness, stared back at him. He remembered the day he and Jonathan had put the stickers up there, sketching out the constellations in miniature above Clark's bed. It had never occurred to him then to think he might have fallen from them.
"Damn," he murmured.
He did have a headache, and he could not shake the after affects of the dream. It was still vividly present in his mind: the rattling truck, the smoke in the air all around them, the whine of the engine, and the warmth of his mother's arms around him.
Lionel Luthor's fear.
Clark closed his eyes, and it washed over him again, but this time it merged with other emotions he often recalled when attempting to harness his memories. There was fear, and confusion, grief and pain, all jumbled together with a feeling of joy.
~~"My wish came true."
He'd smiled up at her, and she returned the glance, her mind filled with happiness and her heart beating fast with excitement she fought to suppress in the light of the tragic events around them. He had echoed her joy, pleased he had given it to her.~~
This time Clark didn't doubt what he'd felt. He had not been dreaming. That had been a memory, an honest to god memory of a time he thought had been lost to him. He had felt her happiness. He had not "read" her happiness from her smile, or her body language, or the words she'd spoken. At that point he didn't understand words, but he had understood "meaning."
He'd understood verbal commands, and had come to make the correct responses, because he'd been picking it up from their thoughts. Their emotions had come to him as well, easily interpreted by a child of three with a rudimentary grasp upon language and culture. His race, whoever they might be, were not so different from human that the differences presented a problem. Earth had most likely been the choice for his exile because the people were so like his own.
Clark opened his eyes and grinned up at the ceiling, wishing it were not three in the morning so he could share his revelation with his parents.
Then abruptly, the smile faded.
Had he been exiled? Had he been different there too and out of fear they had sent him away? He definitely had no recollection of anything prior to the cornfield in which he'd been found, and if he had been psychic at one point, he surly wasn't now. As usual, Clark felt as if he'd taken one step forward, and two back. Answers had only led to more questions.
With a heavy sigh he rolled onto his side, curling around the abused pillow once again.
The psychic bit made so much sense, now that he'd latched on to it, but when had he lost that ability and why? Had other abilities pushed it to the wayside, or was it still there, atrophied from disuse? If he were psychic he wished it would pop up again. It might help him with his love life.
That thought brought new angst, a change of direction in his thoughts, and after several minutes of stewing about what he was going to do to try to piece back together his friendship with Chloe, he finally fell asleep.
"Psychic?" Martha frowned slightly as she ladled scrambled eggs out of a pan onto a plate sitting in front of Clark. "A little far fetched..."
"Mom - heat vision?"
Jonathan chuckled and reached for the ketchup. "He's got a point there, Martha."
"But it makes sense," she continued, ignoring them both. "You didn't say hardly a word for the longest time, but you always seemed to understand what we wanted."
"I'm not psychic now," Clark added, snagging the ketchup from Jonathan and applying a quantity of it to his pile of eggs. After a pause he squirted some over his sausage as well. "If I were, I think I'd know."
Martha picked at her breakfast, looking serene and thoughtful. Clark watched her out of the corner of his eye as he ate, trying to figure out just what she was thinking. He picked up nothing but his own nagging thoughts regarding the pile of homework his teachers had decided to dump on their students over the weekend. He was up to his eyeballs in essays all due Monday.
"You must have lost the ability when you didn't need it any more. Maybe wherever you come from children are able to sense thoughts during the time they're learning to communicate and then they outgrow it." Shrugging, Martha sprinkled pepper on her eggs, shaking her head at Jonathan who added more ketchup to his own.
"Do you think that means I might outgrow some of my physical abilities one day?"
Jonathan hesitated as he spooned honey onto a piece of toast. "Possibly," he murmured, throwing a glance at Martha. "But it seems unlikely, Clark."
"You haven't had any sort of psychic experience since you were little, have you?" Martha asked.
"Not that I can remem...." He stopped abruptly.
Jonathan set down his toast, one eyebrow cocked. "You have?"
Clark winced. He never liked keeping anything from his parents, and nine times out of ten, things he had kept from them came back to haunt him later. He'd never mentioned the scarecrow incident to them. As time progressed he saw little reason to tell them; it was water under the bridge.
The "allergic" reaction to meteor rocks was established, he and Whitney had come to an understanding, and everything was okay. Clark suffered no ill effects from what happened, and didn't like to dwell on it anyway.
"Nothing. It's nothing," he murmured.
"Clark, anything having to do with your abilities could be important, and I thought we agreed you weren't to keep things from us." Jonathan said quietly.
He sighed. There was the rub. With his friends he had to keep secrets, too many secrets. With his parents he wasn't allowed to have any, leading to the sorts of feelings he'd acted upon when he'd been wearing the ring. He'd wanted to tell his friends all his secrets, and rebel against his parents' control over the use of his gifts. Yet - they'd all seen the results of letting go...
"Something kind of weird happened last fall."
"And you didn't tell us?"
"I didn't want to upset you. Lex was involved, and I know that's the last thing you ever want to hear." Clark said, fighting to keep the defensive tone out of his voice.
Jonathan's pursed lips and rolling eyes illustrated the accuracy of the statement.
"And..." He winced, because this was going to go over like a tone of bricks. "I - could have died."
Martha dropped her fork with a clatter. "What?"
"That son of a..."
Clark scowled. "Dad, it wasn't Lex. It was Whitney. You always blame Lex for everything, but in this you can't hold him responsible for anything but saving my life."
Jonathan fell silent in mid-splutter. His angry expression softened, perhaps remembering that Lex had recently saved his life as well, a karmic debt repaid. Clark wondered, thinking back to the rattling truck and the sensation, via Lionel, of feeling Lex's breathing growing weaker and weaker. Clark also remembered the riverbank, and the panicked feeling he'd experienced when he realized the body he'd hauled out of the water wasn't showing any signs of life at all.
The most prominent memory this time, however, was his own experience, as he'd struggled to stay conscious, and thus breathing, as he hung from the cross in Reilly field. If he'd lost consciousness, and he had, finally, his lungs would have gradually filled with fluid as a result of the way he'd been tied. He would have drowned.
Quietly, he related the almost-fight with Whitney, the sickness brought on by Lana's necklace that had finally made him understand he was allergic to the meteor fragments, and the long hours spent alone in the cold and the darkness wondering if he were going to die. He'd never been so frightened before in his life, and in the end, just before everything faded to black, he'd called out for help.
"Lex found me. He had been working late at the plant. He was just leaving when he saw Jeremy Creek coming out of the field."
"Reilly Field was where we found Lex after the meteor shower." Martha said quietly. "He was there." She raised her fingers to her lips. "The same meteor strike that put Jeremy in a coma was the one that hurt Lex."
Clark nodded. "Lex might have gone into the field anyway, to see what Jeremy was doing out there, except that he didn't. He told me he was going to just get in his car and get the hell out of there."
"What changed his mind?"
"Me. He said he heard me call for help, and it's always bothered me that he said that because I don't think I did call for help, not out loud. Even if I did I don't think he could have heard me from the road." Clark paused, inhaling slowly. He let the breath out as he concluded. "I think he felt it. I think I contacted him in another way."
Martha glanced at her husband, who raised an eyebrow. Her eyes darted quickly back to Clark, and her gaze grew somewhat vague as her thoughts turned inward. "So," she murmured. "The abilities you had as a child re-emerged under stress. Gives further support to your psychic theory."
"I wish I could remember more from that time. I just have little bits and pieces, and this is the first time I've been able to remember any sort of detail. My strongest childhood memories only go back as far as preschool." He turned his attention back to his now cold eggs, which he no longer had any desire to eat. "I want to know who I was, before I became me. I know that doesn't make sense but..."
Martha reached out a hand to squeeze his. "It makes perfect sense, honey. It makes perfect sense."
Clark smiled slightly. "I wish I dared tell Ryan. There's something else we have in common." He sighed. "E-mail is too dicey, and I haven't heard from him since school started. He's probably up to his eyeballs in homework."
Rising, Jonathan grabbed his coat from the back of the chair and gave Clark a gentle cuff as he walked past. "Like someone else we know?"
"I wish I had the ability to write essays in my sleep." Clark growled, getting up himself to help Jonathan with the chores. "Or something useful like that."
"Something useful like that, he says." Martha laughed. "As if you don't do half the work around here in a quarter of the time."
Clark grinned. "Yeah, but being able to feed a herd of cows in forty-seven seconds isn't a prerequisite for college."
There was a snowstorm of paper all over the loft; crumpled balls of lined notebook paper that one of the farm cats was having a great deal of fun chasing down the stairs. It was making a bigger mess for Clark to have to clean up later, but the cat was making him laugh. Apparently someone else also found the crazy tabby's antics funny, because as she tore down the stairs again, tail fluffed and eyes wide, batting a paper ball with her paws, a note of laughter was heard from below.
Sophie shot back up the stairs and ducked under the couch. A moment later Lex appeared, and wordlessly began unloading paper balls from his coat pockets. The odd expression on his face indicated he was trying not to laugh. His efforts failed when Sophie stuck a paw out from under the couch to harass Clark's shoelaces.
"Don't tell me Reynolds is after you again," he said. "Or are you setting up the feline version of a carnival fun house on purpose?"
"Thanks," Clark said, as Lex picked up the trash can and deposited what he'd picked up from downstairs. "And no to both questions. English Lit." He flung his notebook and pen down to the steamer trunk table before him and leaned back on the couch. Sophie neatly untied his right boot. "You?"
Lex sighed. He leaned against Clark's desk and crossed his arms. "I cannot explain how it can be so difficult to play hide and seek with a blind man. I can't go anywhere in the house that he doesn't show up to torment me." He lowered his voice to a soft growl. "The man is part foxhound, and when he gets me treed he stands there baying at me."
Despite himself, Clark laughed, picturing Lionel howling at Lex like a dog. "So what if he tracks you down here?"
With a wry smile, Lex nodded towards the window. "I'm jumping."
"Well the wolves may howl, but the walls of this fortress are impenetrable."
Lex cocked an eyebrow. "Wow, Clark. I almost expected you to get up and rattle your armor with that bold declaration."
"The sanctuary is much appreciated, but my father possesses magic that will allow him to breech your walls."
"Yeah, like what?"
"My cell phone number."
Shaking his head, Clark chuckled. "Foiled by technology. At least it has an off button."
It was Lex's turn to grin. "And I left it in the car."
Clark's dark brows dipped over his nose in mock outrage. "You bahstahd," he intoned. "Thou shalt rot in thine own dungeon for perpetrating such a heinous crime."
"You're in a good mood." Lex laughed. "What happened? Did Lana break down and agree to go steady?"
"No, and I suspect although we're slowly getting our issues resolved, Chloe still has a dart board at home with my picture hung up on it."
"Feast or famine."
"That's the truth. Either they're interested in me, or they're irritated with me, but always at the same time."
"So neither one tips the scales in her favor."
Lex toyed with some papers on the desk beside him, and in the moment of silence before he responded, Clark decided to try an experiment. He thought Lex's name, trying to broadcast it across the room without speaking, trying to attract Lex's attention without words. Like a mantra he repeated it over and over again in his mind.
Nothing. Lex continued poking around on the desk, eventually looking up on his own accord. "You'll have to do the scale tipping yourself, Clark."
Clark frowned. "Yeah, I know." He smiled as Sophie eased herself out from under the couch and crossed over to Lex. "Beware your pants."
Lex bent, and swiftly scooped Sophie up into his arms, thus saving his pants but sacrificing his shirt and the lapel of his coat to her silvery grey fur. "That's what lint brushes are for, Clark." He scratched behind the cat's ears, making her purr. Clark could hear it all the way across the room.
"She likes you."
Apparently that pleased Lex. He grinned. "I was never allowed to have a pet as a kid."
"Neither was I, the cats have always lived out here in the barn. The mouse patrol. I was never allowed to bring them into the house."
~~Mom and Dad were afraid I'd accidently squash a dog or a cat.~~
"Mom is allergic," he added hastily.
Lex shot him a look which clearly indicated he didn't believe Clark in the slightest. He said nothing contradictory, however, and continued to scratch Sophie behind her silky ears. "I can relate. I always knew when the maids were slacking off on the cleaning. The dust would set off my asthma. I think pet dander would have killed me."
"But you don't have asthma now."
"No, not at all, thanks to the meteor shower." His smile was wry. "Once I realized that I could breathe normally, being bald at the age of twelve wasn't quite so bad."
~~He could feel the beating of Martha Kent's heart as she held him, and sensed her anxiety. She had been worried about the child - not Clark himself, whom she had already begun thinking of by that name - but the other boy, Lex. Mixed together with her other concerns, her fear, and her joy, was the underlying realization that they might reach the hospital too late. She could only stare straight ahead through the windshield. She could not look at him, with his pale and dirty face and startling baldness, because her greatest fear would be that when she did, she would find him dead in his father's arms.
Clark looked for her.~~
He sat up, resting his elbows on his knees, then reached down to re-tie his boot. "Do you remember anything about what happened?" he asked quietly.
Lex's long fingers hesitated as they worked through Sophie's soft fur, resuming as she mewed in protest. "The smell."
Startled, Clark looked at him.
"I was at the Talon the other day. Lana was having trouble with the popcorn machine and she burnt a whole batch."
"Burnt popcorn reeks." Clark agreed, making a face.
Lex nodded. "Burnt popcorn reminds me of the meteor shower, because I remember the smell of burning corn." His eyes grew slightly vague. "I asked my father about it once, one of the very few times we ever discussed what happened, and he said there wasn't a stalk of corn left standing in the field where he found me. It had all been flattened by the blast; acres and acres of corn, all leveled." Sighing, he tipped his chin downward, allowing Sophie to rub her head along his cheek. "I'm lucky to be alive."
"But you don't remember anything else?"
"No, why?" Straightening suddenly, Lex put Sophie down, and kicked a paper ball across the room for her to chase. He regarded Clark with a somewhat suspicious expression.
"I just - that DunLeavy woman - she's left me thinking about my adoption. I've been trying to remember anything from my childhood before Mom and Dad adopted me, and that's got me thinking about memory, and how it works." He frowned. "Or doesn't work."
"Especially here in Smallville, Kansas, where half the population has holes in their memory due to some strange occurrence or another." Lex nodded. "I'm still trying to figure out what the hell happened when Rickman tinkered with mine."
Clark hid a wince by bending to pick up a paper ball and lobbing it down the stairs for Sophie's continued pleasure. He didn't want Lex to remember that particular episode. "You do realize," he said. "That it was Reilly field where you were found, don't you?"
"Where the quarterback left you high and dry? Yes, I know."
Their eyes met.
"Do you think that means anything?" Clark asked.
There was a significant pause before Lex said, shortly: "No."
This time it was Clark who didn't believe him, but like Lex, he did not attempt to disagree. "I don't think I ever thanked you for getting me down."
"You don't have to, Clark."
Clark understood where he was going with that statement. "You don't owe me anything, Lex."
Lex didn't reply, instead turning his gaze towards the little cat sitting at the top of the stairs. His face was in profile to Clark, with half lidded eyes cast down towards Sophie, and his body stiff and still with tension. Clark's fickle memory latched on to another fragment from the ride to the hospital, when he'd turned his gaze on Lex because Martha had been too afraid to look. It struck Clark like the slap of an open palm against his face.
~~Blue eyes, pupils dilated with terror, cracked open and Clark had been immediately assaulted with a flood of emotion. Incoherent thoughts ran through Lex's mind like quicksilver, one right after the other, over a background of replaying his initial fear over and over again. He was locked in a continuous loop of terror filled memory. Lex had seen the blast coming at him and had immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was going to kill him.
He couldn't draw a full breath. The asthma coupled with fear was sealing his throat closed to all but the barest trickle of air. Clark could feel his lungs burning, the numbness that had settled over his body, and the blinding headache throbbing behind his eyes. They had exchanged a silent glance during which Lex continued to scream in fear and in pain and beg to be allowed to simply die and get it over with. ~~
Lex's head snapped up and he shot Clark a look that bordered on shock, a look frighteningly similar to the one Clark had just recalled. After a moment the widened eyes narrowed, lips pursed, and Lex gazed at him with open suspicion. Why, Clark could only imagine, but he was suddenly afraid that maybe a little bit of that long gone empathic ability had snuck out again.
"Uh, I better get back to work on this stupid essay," he murmured. He avoided Lex's gaze by reaching for his paper and pen again, only looking up when a board creaked beneath Lex's weight.
"I don't believe in fate, Clark." Lex's voice was very quiet, and slightly unsteady. "I believe we make our own destinies, we've talked about it before."
"But I do believe there is something going on between you and I, something I can't explain."
Shaking his head, Clark dredged up the prerequisite lie, putting yet another scar on his heart. "No, you're right. It's coincidence." He looked up into Lex's eyes. "Stuff like that sometimes happens between friends."
Lex stared at him for several heartbeats before turning his lip up in a slight smirk. "You're a horrible liar, Clark," he said, and turned away towards the stairs. "Finish your essay. I'm going back to the hound from hell." He stopped his progress two steps down to look back. "You going to be at the Talon for the usual Sunday brunch?"
"Absolutely, you know I'm addicted to my once a week over-indulgence of capuccino."
"Mary Margaret is on the schedule."
"Hers are the best." Clark grinned.
"I'm telling Lana you said that." Lex returned the grin as he disappeared down the stairs.
Clark's grin faded as soon as Lex was gone, and he flopped back against the couch unhappily. Sophie jumped up into his lap, kneading his thigh with her paws. Her rumbling purr filled the air.
"I wish I know what all this meant, Soph." Clark murmured, running his fingers down the arch of her back. "I'm just as blind to the future as I am to the past." He sighed. "But I can't shake the feeling that everything is connected."
He closed his eyes, listening to Sophie purr as she curled herself into the juncture of Clark's hip and thigh for a nap, and reviewed what had most recently been revealed to him. Had some sort of connection been forged between himself and Lex that day, one that continued to exist over time and distance? Had it been coincidence that Clark had been standing on the bridge when Lex's car went into the river, or had he somehow sensed the need to stop there?
~~He had reached out a hand, instinct dictating a need to touch. Lex's skin was cold beneath his fingertips, the smoothness disrupted only by the grit of dirt ground into it. Lex's face and his pale white scalp were smudged with the darkness of rich Kansas soil, and soot from the fiery meteor; where it crossed his cheeks it was streaked with lines traced by tears. The expression in his eyes remained vague and distant, but he followed the action of Clark's hand down his face.
Through the contact Clark had come to understand the nature of the problem, reading Lex's fear and his pain, as well as detecting the disease that drove away the ability to breathe properly. He'd reached out, remembering one who had always eased his troubled mind. She had often touched him thus, soothing away his fear when the house rocked on its foundations late at night. He'd been afraid it would fall on him, crumbling under the latest onslaught of planetary angst. The world was unstable. The sky was falling.
Clark told Lex, without words or language, that everything was going to be okay. He believed it, because he had once been afraid, but She had touched his mind and told him he would be safe, and she had told the truth. Clark was safe, held tightly in the arms of a new mother, who could not talk to him the same way his own had, but who's love was very similar. He shared a little bit of her love with the ailing child next to him, mimicking what Lex associated with his own mother. It had brought the continuous loop of hysterical fear to a halt.
With a smile, Clark withdrew his hand. The tension eased from Lex's body, and his lips moved into the faintest smile of his own - not at Clark, but in relief; he'd felt his mother's touch. His eyes rolled back beneath fluttering eyelids, and he drifted back into unconsciousness, but his breathing improved, and the fear was slaked.
Clark turned back to the road before them wondering where they were going next. ~~
"I'm so going straight to alien hell for this." Clark murmured as he pushed open the door to the Torch office.
He'd already been caught once hacking into Chloe's computer, the result of which had been a nasty fight, and here he was about to do it again, for much the same reason. Before he had wanted to see if she'd kept any of the information she'd found regarding his adoption, and he'd been poking around with the conviction that he wouldn't find anything. He'd not only been terribly wrong, but he found out more than he wanted to know about Chloe's investigating, i.e., that she was still doing it. He'd been hurt and infuriated, and he was still plagued with guilt regarding the fact he'd wanted to do nothing more than pick her up and chuck her out the window when she'd walked in and found him sitting there stewing.
This time he knew she wouldn't show up unexpectedly, because he had sent Pete off to distract her.
Clark told his conscience to take a flying leap and carefully popped open the filing cabinet with a gentle tug. If he pulled too hard he would break the lock instead of just bending the metal rod holding the drawer shut. Breaking the lock was something he couldn't easily fix later. The drawer slid open easily, and he smiled as the it revealed it's contents, including the manila folder he sought labeled with Chloe's unmistakable scrawl. She hid all her passwords and "secret contact" information in the folder marked with the word "recipes."
She had indeed changed her password since Clark's last foray into her machine and he wondered if "dorkus" was in reference to himself. He perused the folder and found the other information he needed; the secret to hacking into the Lowell County medical database, which allowed her to access patient information from any hospital in the area, including Smallville Medical Center and Metropolis General.
"Chloe, Chloe, Chloe..." Clark shook his head as he put the file back and repaired the file cabinet so that it was securely locked once again. She would be so busted if someone found out she could get into peoples' private files.
Of course Clark was about to do the same thing, so he really couldn't criticize her too much.
He had spent all weekend trying to recall more about his mother, his real mother, based on a vague memory of a memory. Back and forth he went over everything he had recalled, but always hit a blank wall just before and just after the ride to the hospital. He was convinced, however, that Lex held the key to unlocking more of his memories. Something had happened between them, and in that something Clark drew upon memories of his real mother. Getting back to her meant getting back to the time directly after the meteor shower, and he was able to get there via Lex.
What else occurred? Clark knew there was more, but his efforts to find it had continually failed. He'd gone to Martha in frustration, asking her for more details regarding their journey to the hospital, and she had given him one small clue.
She had remained in the truck with Clark when Jonathan went with Lionel into the emergency room. Jonathan was concerned, not only about Lex, but about the others in the community. He had seen Nell Potter getting out of an ambulance with Lana in her arms, and both he and Martha were been alarmed by the little girl's hysterical screaming. Nell had not been in a much better state. Jonathan went inside to find out what happened.
He was gone for a very long time, until Martha could not stand it any longer. She had sat in the parking lot watching the ambulances and cars pull in and out of the emergency entrance to disgorge countless numbers of people, many of whom were badly injured or, like Lana and Lex, in various stages of shock. Eventually she grew uncomfortable, and with Clark in her arms, she went inside to find her husband.
"It was chaos," Martha said. "Complete chaos. Nobody knew what really happened, only that these things had fallen from the sky without warning. I tried to help some people that I knew - it was horrible, horrible."
In the confusion she had lost Clark briefly, and was nearly panic stricken when she'd finally located him. She and a nurse found him at the same time, but Martha had hustled him away before any questions could be asked.
"Where was I?" Clark asked her, although he had a feeling he knew.
"Curled up in your blanket, on the floor beside Lex's bed, fast asleep." She smiled. "The nurse was outraged that you'd been able to sneak in, since it was ICU and Lionel had thrown his weight around in order to get Lex in a private room."
So, Clark thought, I was right. Something else happened.
He drummed his fingers impatiently on Chloe's desk as her computer went through it's wake up stages. As soon as it was online and functional he typed in the address he needed, following it up with the password that would allow him to access Lex's medical records from any time spent at Smallville Medical Center. With his luck, he thought, Lionel would have removed everything.
Lionel hadn't bothered, nor had Lex, for all the records still existed in the hospital's archives. They went as far back as that first stay in 1989 and were as recent as his brief stint there following the car accident last fall. Clark wasted no time reading anything. Instead he reached into his backpack and withdrew a disc, popping it in and downloading all the files to for a more careful investigation later in the security of his own room.
It took only a minute. When the computer signalled that it had completed its task he tucked the disc away again, and meticulously erased any evidence from the hard-drive of what he had done and where he had been. He wouldn't put it past Chloe to check her history and Clark would be the first one she would accuse of breaking into her computer without her permission. Clark didn't want to start another fight with her.
The computer was just flashing the "It is now safe to turn off your computer" message when he heard Chloe and Pete returning. Quickly he turned everything off and zipped over to the door. He timed it perfectly, shooting out past Pete's left shoulder as the door opened. Neither Chloe nor Pete saw him, although he thought he saw Pete flinch as he went by. Clark ducked into an empty classroom, turned, then went back out into the hallway at a perfectly normal human speed.
He had to hold back a laugh when Principal Reynolds passed him going down the stairs as Clark was going up them taking two at a time.
"Slow down, Kent, you aren't late - for a change."
"So what are we looking at?" Pete asked, leaning over Clark's shoulder as Clark uploaded the medical records into his computer. "Chloe's porn collection?"
Clark elbowed him, gently, trying not to laugh. "No, don't be a jerk. It's Lex's medical records."
Pete issued the expected snort of disgust. "Why are we looking at Lex Luthor's medical records, and are you aware that violating doctor-patient confidentiality is extremely illegal?"
"No? Really? Is it right up there with breaking into genetics labs and fooling around with DNA samples?" Clark's fingers flew swiftly over the keyboard.
"Uhm. Point taken." Pete grumbled. "Man, if my parents ever found out all this...."
"They'd be too distracted by the fact that I'm from outer space to inflict a century long grounding on you." Clark laughed. "So stop worrying." He shrugged. "Consider it for a good cause."
"Yeah, what good cause?"
Pete laughed. "Sure, the non-profit charity that is E.T. Kent."
"You're a funny guy, Pete. I think I'll let you live when I begin my hostile takeover of the planet."
"Thanks, I think."
The computer beeped. Clark brought the information he needed up on the screen, scrolling down to the records from 1989. His eyes darted over the first few lines. Pete whistled.
"Damn, that doesn't look good."
"No, it doesn't." Clark said quietly.
The doctors had experienced difficulty in getting Lex's condition stabilized. He'd been in shock, and every system seemed to be weakening, in particular his respiratory system. The asthma had complicated his ability to get enough oxygen to his heart. Blood tests revealed the first signs of a massive infection, and a severe reduction in white blood cells indicating a nearly non-existent immune system. It was if the meteor blast had stripped him of more than just his hair, but his strength as well. He had been dying.
Clark spent some time coming to that conclusion, having to repeatedly pause and look up the meaning of some of the medical terminology he didn't understand. It was almost like translating a foreign text into English, and he was thankful many times over for the Internet and various on line medical resources.
"But what happened?" he asked finally, as he made his way through the text with a fine toothed comb. "Just a few hours later they did get him stable, and look at the radical change in the test results."
"I dunno, man. It looks like he snapped back with a vengeance."
Leaning back in his chair, Clark stared at the computer screen, then glanced at his handwritten notes. "Lex never gets sick," he whispered. "He told me so himself, and he doesn't have asthma anymore."
"So how did he go from dying, to completely cured of everything..."
"And with a pit-bull style immune system." Clark interjected.
"In less than two hours time?"
Clark continued staring at the computer screen, lost in thought.
"Uh-oh, I know that look." Pete said uneasily. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking that I need to have another talk with Lex."
Ironically, Lex was demonstrating his good health when Clark found him in the big ballroom he'd turned into a workout facility. He was at the center of the room, clad in sweats and a T-shirt, jumping rope. Under his breath he kept count, marking the time each time his feet bounced up off the wooden floor.
Clark stood leaning in the door way. "Can you do double dutch too?"
"Funny." Lex said breathlessly, and continued jumping and counting. With a malicious grin he crossed the rope in front of him but kept going without missing a beat.
Lex grinned. "Heh?"
The left hand handle was passed over to Lex's right hand, the rope came together on the next beat without Lex jumping over it, then he passed the handle back, jumping the rope on the next beat.
"I repeat," Clark laughed. "Show off."
Lex sped up for a moment before coming to a complete stop. He flipped the jump-rope up into his left hand and then threw it towards Clark, who plucked it out of the air without looking. Nervously he began coiling it in his hands. Lex stalked off for the towel and the bottle of water he had sitting on a nearby weight bench.
"Jumping rope is one of the best cardiovascular workouts you can give yourself, and it doesn't require an aerobics instructor and expensive equipment."
"Lex Luthor, cheapskate."
After a pull from the water bottle, Lex nodded slightly. "Rich people don't stay rich by spending money, besides, I've been cut off remember?"
"No, not entirely, but enough to make me start being more budget conscious."
Clark grinned. "So you fired your aerobics instructor and bought a jump-rope."
Suspicious of the grin, Clark narrowed his eyes. "You never had a private aerobics instructor did you?"
"No, but if I had, she'd be down at the unemployment office this week." Lex gestured with the bottle for Clark to follow him as he turned towards the door on the opposite side of the room. "Clark, you're so gullible."
"So I've been told before." Clark tossed the jump-rope over some mysterious exercise device and followed Lex out the other door. "And oblivious, according to Pete."
"I don't think you're so much oblivious as distracted."
Clark shrugged. "If you go with the distracted argument then you can say I'm not gullible either, just short on attention."
Lex chuckled as he glanced back over his shoulder before mounting a short flight of stairs. "Did you come over with the intention of arguing semantics with me, or did you have another purpose?"
"I like arguing semantics with you."
Lex snorted and continued up the stairs. "You're hedging, Clark. What's going on?" He pushed open a door and they entered into the hallway leading to Lex's office, wherein Lex stalked over to his desk and leafed idly through his messages while Clark settled into a chair.
"Are you sure you don't remember anything about the meteor shower?"
Startled, Lex looked up at him, his expression completely unreadable, but the look in his eyes was suspicion bordering on anger. Clark wondered if he hadn't finally crossed the line that would bring an end to their easy comaraderie. If so, he thought, it wasn't fair because god knew he'd fielded enough of Lex's questions, but of course he couldn't expect Lex to tell him any truths when Clark lied like a dog himself. Clark had no right to expect anything at all.
Lex simply looked at him, without saying a word, before setting down his water bottle and taking a seat behind the desk. "What's this all about?"
"How did your father get you to the hospital from Reilly Field, did he tell you?"
Shrugging, Lex chose to answer. "He flagged down a farmer passing on the..." He stopped, his brow dipping as he made a connection. "Jonathan Kent?"
Clark nodded. "I was there, they were bringing me home that day, but I don't remember anything either. I want to remember, because it might lead me back further, to my real parents."
~~And if my adoptive parents knew I was telling you this, they'd send me back, if they didn't kill me first.~~
"How come you never mentioned this before?"
"I never knew. I guess my father didn't think it was important. The meteor shower shook everyone up."
Lex leaned forward over his desk, steepling his fingers against his lips as he thought. "You've never expressed any desire to find your birth parents before. Why now, besides the obvious answer of having Rachel DunLeavy stir up new questions and old memories?"
Clark looked down at his hands, picking at his nails. "I don't necessarily want to find them, in fact I don't believe they're alive."
Lex raised an eyebrow, and Clark realized he was speaking the truth. He did believe his biological parents were dead. He didn't understand how he knew it any more than he understood where they came from, but in his heart, he knew they were gone. The realization brought with it a degree of sadness that made his quest more important, and oddly, gave him a new insight into Lana. No wonder she was so obsessive, and possessive, of what few memories she had of her parents. Clark had nothing, and desperately wanted something.
"You have memories of your mother," he said quietly. "And even Lana remembers things from when her parents were alive. I can't remember anything at all. I just want something."
"What makes you think memories of the meteor shower might unlock memories of your parents?"
"I don't know. Maybe I blocked out the stuff that happened around me after the meteor shower because it reminded me of something that happened before, something that killed my parents."
Sitting back in his chair again, Lex sighed, and his expression softened. "Clark, you could be opening Pandora's box with this investigation. There might be a reason you can't remember what happened." His eyes flickered away, and in what Clark perceived as a completely unconscious gesture, he ran a hand over his head. "The mind has a way of protecting itself."
Clark met his gaze. "I'm willing to take the risk."
"But it's not yours alone." Lex said softly. "You're asking me to take a risk as well. Personally, I'd like those particular memories to stay buried."
"Even if it sheds some light on our relationship?"
It was Clark's trump card, and both of them knew it. Lex had always been intrigued with the strange series of events that seemed to tie the two of them together. It was, as he had hinted before, more than coincidence. Regrettably, anything Clark managed to uncover, would ultimately have to remain Clark's knowledge alone. He was betraying their friendship by asking Lex to help him knowing that he would not be able to share the results, and that hurt more than he wanted to admit.
Like Lana would never commit to being Clark's girlfriend without mutual honesty, Lex and Clark's friendship was doomed because of the secrets they kept from each other. Clark knew Lex had something to do with Roger Nixon, and he suspected the motivation for killing him leaned more towards hiding that involvement than it had saving Jonathan Kent's life. Clark just didn't want to believe it. The idea Lex would kill someone to save his own skin, was unnerving.
Pete was wrong. Clark wasn't oblivious. He simply did not want to be confronted with the fact that people he cared for could do bad things, hence his recent disappointment in Chloe.
"You can shed more light on our relationship, Clark. You just choose not to do it."
"I've told you everything I know."
"And so have I." Lex said shortly, knowing a lie when he heard it. "I don't remember anything between the time I wandered into Reilly field and saw Jeremy Creek crucified in the middle of it and waking up in Metropolis General with my mother sobbing at my bedside."
Clark regarded him stonily, then levered himself out of the chair. "Fine," he said gruffly. "I won't bother you with it again."
He breezed out of the room, turning down the long hallway towards the foyer and the main entrance, where he would take his leave. He had gotten this far on his own, he didn't need anything Lex might be able to contribute. Clark would keep trying, and maybe one day he'd remember more. Until then, he would hold on to the wisp of a memory he retained, of a woman who had soothed away his fears with a touch.
Clark stopped abruptly, brought to a halt by the cane across his chest. He glanced to his right towards the man who had ambushed him from the shadows of a doorway, and experienced a momentary surge of fear. Recalling the allusion Lex had woven about a fox and a hound, he realized he had just been treed, and he was afraid Lionel would now proceed to rip him to shreds.
"Mr. Kent I presume?"
The words came out slightly breathless. "Yes, sir."
Lionel lowered the cane. "Come to borrow my son's Ferarri again have you?"
"No, sir." Clark said quietly, wondering just how rude it would be for him to run away from a blind man. Far more so, he concluded, than sneaking away from Chloe - although that was pretty bad too.
"Sir? Such respect from a young man who once told me to get the hell out of my own house?"
"Could it be that the rebellion has been crushed by the parental dictatorship?" Lionel chuckled, and poked Clark in the chest with the silver tipped cane. "The fiery spirit snuffed out?"
Lionel cocked his head, almost as if his eyes, hidden by the shadows and the dark glasses he wore, were functional. "Pity," he said quietly, and lowered the cane again. "Why are you here, then? Surely you have a purpose?" It was an eerie echo of Lex's inquiry.
Hesitating, Clark debated how much, if anything, to reveal, before deciding on a very simple truth. "I came to tell Lex something I found out about what happened after the meteor shower, something I thought he might find interesting."
There was a significant pause as Lionel absorbed this, and Clark felt unnerved by the smile it produced. "I sincerely hope you didn't think this would be a mutual exchange of information, Mr. Kent. My son is notoriously reticent."
"So are you. Why didn't you tell him my father was the one who drove you to the hospital?"
Lionel's eyes widened, as evidenced by his eyebrows rising above the top edge of his glasses. "He told you did he?"
Clark groaned silently. What was this? Return of the Jedi?
~~Clark, your father is really Darth Vader.~~
He honestly believed Lionel's next words would be "unfortunate this is" and imagined Lex keeling over in hysterics, laughing his ass off at the comparison between his father and Yoda.
~~I'm losing it.~~
But Lionel was definitely not Yoda, and every bit as devious as the Dark Lord of the Sith. He raised his chin and gazed at a point just beyond Clark's left shoulder.
"I think we both know why I never revealed your family's involvement with my own, Mr. Kent," he said smoothly. "I don't believe it would be beneficial for either my son, or the community at large to know your adoption was a sham."
"Lex has a right to know who was involved with saving his life." Clark insisted. "That, at least, you could have told him."
"Your father was duly rewarded for his involvement, and I did not question his motives for sliding your adoption 'under the table' so to speak. Do not question mine when it comes to what I do, or do not, reveal to my son."
Clark stood there for a moment, his frustration mounting, before turning away with a growl, and continuing on his way out the door.
Damn them both.
~~Clark wasn't afraid of being lost. He knew precisely where Martha and Jonathan Kent were in relation to himself. Neither one of them had left the hospital. Martha was in the emergency room, soothing the tears of a neighbor who had lost her husband. Jonathan was upstairs in the pediatric ward, trying to calm Nell Potter, who had suddenly found herself in charge of a shell shocked little girl.
What was bothering Clark was the noise in his head. The emotional outpouring of the people around him was almost overwhelming, and as he wandered through them, just one small boy in a sea of confusion, he sought only a quiet refuge. He knew only four people in his new home thus far, and of those four only one seemed to be at peace. It was there that Clark needed to be, and it took him only a minute to find that place.
He slipped into Lex's room and closed the door behind him. Away from the people outside, and surrounded only by the soft sounds of the machinery monitoring Lex's steadily weakening life signs, the roar of other minds in Clark's head subsided to the faintest of whispers. Relieved, he sank to the floor beside the bed with a sigh.~~
Clark rubbed at his temples, wishing someone would invent an analgesic that would effectively eliminate alien sized headaches. Tight muscles were tight muscles, and tension headaches were ten times worse if you were stronger than the average bear.
He'd fled from the mansion and the frustrations of dealing with the Luthors, straight to the Talon where he'd hoped Lana would be able to console him. If anyone could understand his frustration it would be she, but he was disappointed when he burst through the doors and found she was not on duty. It was Nell, and Mary Margaret running the show, and Clark slunk off to the back with a cup of cocoa to deal with his troubled thoughts all by himself.
Lex appeared just before closing.
He reminded Clark of Sophie, slinking in through the common room in his long black coat and grey sweater like the grey tabby cat on a prowl. If Lionel was a foxhound, Lex was a tomcat, and he was about to corner his mouse. Clark watched him out of the corner of his eye but saw no malice in his features, only honest concern and amicability. As he settled into a chair across from Clark, his blue eyes sparkled with good humor.
"My father," he said quietly. "Tells me that you took him to task for not telling me your father played chauffeur the day of the meteor shower. He actually apologized to me for not mentioning it before."
Clark hoped that was all Lionel had revealed. "I just told him you had a right to know, it was your life on the line after all." He shrugged, and leaned back in his chair, rubbing at his temple again.
Lex fell silent, contemplative, looking down at his hands for some time before speaking. "I do owe you my life Clark, and now that debt seems to extend to the whole family. Believe me, if I did remember anything about what happened after the meteor shower, I would most certainly give that information to you. It would be the least I could do."
"I appreciate that." Clark sighed. "You don't remember anything?"
"Nothing, I'm sorry."
Shrugging, Clark pressed his fingers against closed eyelids and sighed again. "Don't worry about it."
Raising his head, Lex regarded him with some concern. "Are you all right?"
"This has really gotten to you, hasn't it?"
Clark nodded. "It's like an addiction. I got a taste of a memory, just a little taste, but now I'm craving more and have no way of getting it. I feel like a junkie who's run out of money and can't get their fix."
"I can't say I don't know how you feel."
Raising the hand he had up to his forehead, Clark peered out at him from beneath it. He wondered if he weren't being too hard on both Lex and Chloe. Having had suspicions raised regarding Clark and his secrets, was it not human nature to need answers to their questions? Wasn't Clark's quest much the same thing?
"I suppose you do." Clark said quietly. "I'm sorry."
Lex simply shrugged, then rose from his chair. "Here, this I can give you."
"Help with that headache. Something my masseuse taught me about acupressure points." He gestured for Clark to sit up in the chair, and he moved to stand beside it. "I've tried it on myself and it does work, although Tylenol three is much more effective."
Clark chuckled. "I'll bet, doesn't Tylenol three have codeine in it?"
Lex grinned. "Oh, yes." He pressed two fingers to one temple, turning Clark's head away from him. "Now hold still."
The flat of one hand was pressed to Clark's forehead, holding him steady, while the other probed carefully at the base of his skull where it met his neck, long fingers seeking the correct pressure points. Clark relaxed almost immediately, the coolness of Lex's palm acting almost like an ice pack. The temperature outside must have dropped while Clark was sulking inside, but then, the few times Clark had touched him, Lex had always seemed somewhat cold.
"Clark, I'm sending my masseuse to your house one of these days. Your muscles are about as hard as rocks."
"I'm in high school, I have stress..."
Lex chuckled. "Ah, there." His fingers pressed hard against the back of Clark's neck as he found the right spot and the knotted bunch of muscle beneath it. "I'll send her over when your parents aren't home, and it will be one gift you won't send back, right?" He pressed a little harder, and Clark felt the knot starting to ease.
"Are you going to put a bow on her?" Clark laughed, remembering the truck. "Like your other...."
Clark shuddered. His muscles went rigid.
~~It was a bit eerie in the darkened room, with the strange machines and the faint wheezing coming from the bed. Clark felt a tinge of fear and reached automatically for the comforting presence of another being. He found very little comfort, but only a subconscious mind fogged with medication and the shards of terror filled memory. He craned his head, looking up into the pale face above him and leveled himself to his feet.
He stood there, looking down at Lex sleeping - dying - and wondered what he could do to help. The answer came to him quickly, bringing with it a smile as he reached out once again to place a hand upon the pitifully shorn head.
She had touched him, told him he would be going away, and he had felt her sadness. It was a sadness mixed with joy, for he would be sent somewhere safe and his life would be spared. Her child would live when so many others would die.
He didn't want to go. He wanted to stay with her, but her mind soothed his fears and made him believe that all would be well. She had a gift for him, to carry with him, that would protect him until his body adjusted to its new world; a gift that would be her last.
It was a pretty thing that she held in her hand, a white crystal that seemed to glow in the subdued light of the room where they stood. Above them the heavens were revealed through a clear glass dome, the stars cast their light down upon them, sparkling like the shimmering facets of the crystal. He reached out a hand for it, but she stayed him.
Her words were not so much words as meaning, passed from mind to mind. "You will carry it inside of you."
He nodded, understanding, and closed his eyes as she held the stone to his forehead. Her hand was cool, but the crystal was warm. Its warmth radiated throughout his body, filling him with a strange vitality that he, as a child, had not understood. It had been an immunity, a shield, protecting him from harm during the journey, and from any illnesses his new world might have brought to him.
It had been a risk, but he had somehow known the danger to himself was small. He reached out and rested his palm upon the ailing child, knowing his need was greater than Clark's own. He had touched upon his gift, the crystal shield within him, and he felt Her presence. She would understand. She had always taught him that it was better to give than to receive. He "held" the gift she had given him and missed her terribly, instinctively reaching for the feel of her mind...
Only to find nothing remained.
Nothing, he realized, but her gift, which now caused him pain, burning him with sorrow. It would be better to pass it to one who would not feel its pain, but reap its rewards. Clark's thought processes were not quite so intuitive at the age of three, but the basic conceptual impressions were there. He wanted to give, as she had, to honor her memory, relieve himself of the pain, and save the life of another.
He had closed his eyes, opened his mind, and gave the gift away.~~
It had not been the meteor shower that cured Lex's asthma and bolstered his immune system. It had been Clark, and somehow in the transference of that immunity, there had been a lingering connection made. They could sense when one or the other was in trouble. It was purely subconscious, particularly since Clark's psychic abilities had long ago faded, and Lex showed no sign of being psychic, but the connection was there. Now that he knew it was there, Clark could feel it.
He blinked, looking up into Lex's scowl.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
Swallowing heavily, Clark nodded. "Yeah, I think I should go home though, take some aspirin and lay down." Rising to his feet he smiled wanly. "I'll call you in the morning."
Lex stayed him as he reached for his jacket, halting his motions and drawing his gaze. "You remembered something didn't you?"
Clark didn't reply, but he continued to look into Lex's eyes until Lex let go of his arm and stepped back. It was that connection, he had realized, that gave them the ability to detect each others lies. It also allowed Lex to understand that whatever Clark had recalled, he could not share it.
Or perhaps the understanding came from the pained expression on Clark's face that had nothing to do with a headache.
"I have to go." Clark whispered, and took his leave.
The loft was utterly silent save for the soft scufflings of little creatures hiding in the darkness. The dove that had moved in over the summer fluffed her wings as she settled in to sleep high in the rafters. The little mice hiding in the woodwork, one of whom had made her nest in the bottom drawer of Clark's desk, scrambled around gathering supper and avoiding the looming specter of Sophie. Sophie herself was curled up on a hay-bale at the foot of the stairs, sleeping. It was she, her fur rustling softly on the crackling hay as she stretched, that alerted Clark to someone's presence long before he heard the footsteps upon the stairs.
He turned his head to see Chloe enter the loft. Wordlessly she came over to him, motioning him to remain in his prone position on the ramshackle couch. She sat down on the steamer trunk. In her lap she held a large hatbox decorated with pictures of old cars, boats and bi-planes from the early twentieth century. Her hands caressed the top for a moment, then she set the box down beside her.
"I heard you weren't feeling well," she said quietly. "I brought you some cookies."
Clark raised an eyebrow at the hatbox. "That's a lot of cookies, Chloe."
She made a wry face, biting her lip. "I was baking."
"Oh, you were baking." Clark said quietly.
"Thinking about your mom again?"
She nodded again.
"I'm sorry, Chloe. I should never..."
Waving him off, she wiped at her eyes. "I think about her all the time, Clark. I just don't usually let anyone know about it."
He swung his legs off the couch, sitting up, and patted the cushion beside him. After a moment's hesitation, she sat down beside him and snuggled into the crook of his arm. Her fingers plucked at a button on his shirt and he pulled her just a little bit closer. It was a friendly, completely platonic hug that they had shared before, but it meant a lot more now. It was a sign that the rift between them had begun to heal. Clark turned his head, and rested his chin on her hair. It smelled of the vanilla from her baking.
"Have you thought, Chloe," he said after a moment. "That maybe your mother left because she loved you?"
"That doesn't make sense, Clark."
He closed his eyes and he saw the memory of a memory; blue eyes framed in a face surrounded by honey gold hair, and a smile on full lips much like his own as she reached out to brush her fingers along his chin. There had been no mistaking the emotion that came with words he had not been able to understand at the time.
~~I love you.~~
"Maybe she thought you would be better off without her." He looked down at her as she raised her head to meet his gaze. "Everything isn't always as it seems."
Chloe nodded slightly, her eyes moving away, and then back to him. "Daddy has never said anything bad about her," she admitted. "Maybe there's more there than I know."
"Maybe an investigation is in order."
She flinched, as if holding back the desire to get up and begin right away, but then settled back against him with a sigh. "Maybe I might find out more than I want to know."
Clark echoed her sigh, thinking again of his mother, and the gift that had formed a most unusual friendship. "True," he whispered. "But it seems there is always a price to pay for knowledge."
He did not see her look up at him again, her eyes filling with unshed tears. His long gone psychic abilities did not reveal her deepest thoughts.
Chloe Sullivan knew full well the price one paid for knowledge.
Also, why not join
Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?