Ruby Truth

by Valentine Michel Smith



Notes: AU. A "what if." Spoilers for Red including minimal incorporation of existing episode dialog. Written prior to Rush, Rosetta. "Candy Perfume Girl" lyrics by Madonna, William Orbit and Susannah Melvoin

Archiving: Fanfiction.net, Wild Coyote, Level Three

Hugs to Lux and Margroks for beta duties that transcended all expectation. Mwah.

Feedback: Yes, yes, of course, by all means, please.


*The longer he's exposed to the green meteors, the worse he gets. If the same is true of the red rock, God help us all*.

Martha Kent

Ruby Truth
Valentine Michel Smith

One chance. No more.

Jonathan knew if he couldn't convince Clark to give up the ring, he'd have to take it.

Welcome to the family.

The information was near cold, and, after a quick survey of alternatives, it was all he and Pete could come up with - courtesy of Lionel Luthor, no less. Lionel mentioned Jessie, and frankly, he and the boy had no other leads.

The path of least resistance is the road most worth traveling.

God bless small town life. The new residents were instantly traceable. Jonathan went over the details of the plan once more. "Pete, I need to know you understand." The farmer's voice didn't waver. It sounded huskier somehow, burdened by the incontestable gravity of the situation. "There won't be any redos on this one." Jonathan's voice unexpectedly went hushed and gravel-like. "You cannot hesitate."

Jonathan had more than a decade to prepare for this eventuality. He knew he was taking a chance when he snatched the spaceship out of the field and brought an alien child home. He would have to be an idiot to think being Clark's caregiver no more complicated than adopting a stray dog. Thus far, he and Martha had managed. Now, thanks to Pete, they at least had help.

Oh, the last few weeks had been interesting. Pete clenched his jaw and swallowed hard. He'd barely found out that Clark wasn't human. *Say it, Pete, your best bud's fuckin' ET*. He'd already been kidnapped once and watched Clark slide into meteor rock psychosis. Oh, the last few weeks had been interesting indeed.

Pete nodded dutifully, convinced as were Jonathan and Martha, that sweet, doofy Clark was still in there somewhere. Behind the grin that took on new, spine-chilling meaning, behind the soulless eyes.

If there were any way to get him back, this would be it.

Jonathan pulled the truck around back of the house. Immediately, he saw the terrified girl rabbit from the front.

Jonathan motioned to Pete. Pete disappeared into the tall stalks. Jonathan steadied himself. "God doesn't give you any more than you can handle."

He reached for the sledgehammer.


Finding Jessie hadn't been difficult at all. The biggest challenge of Clark's life had been keeping what looked more and more like a ridiculous secret. He was who and what he was. Why shouldn't he shout it from rooftops? Oh right. Someone might take him away.

The left side of Clark's mouth quirked. Or die trying. Here he was, indestructible (if you discounted the meteor allergy), powerful almost beyond comprehension, fast, with nifty little pluses like a brain that worked like a computer, heat and x-ray vision...

Yep, let 'em try.

Poor Jessie. Poor, poor Jessie. He didn't even feel it when she ran straight into him while running heh away from him. She landed hard enough on the dirt to make him wonder if she hurt that fyine ass of hers.

"Please," she implored. "Don't do this."

It was solely involuntary. His tongue slipped out from behind teeth, moistening his bottom lip. Clark shot a "Damn, girl, wtf are you thinking" glance the hottie's way. He scooped up the dropped handbag, shaking the dirt from it. He looked to Jessie again. She'd been fun (he'd been out all night for a reason), but she was really beginning to annoy him.

With characteristic facility, Clark tore through the leather. He squatted to make himself abundantly clear. "I never realized how easy it'd be to get everything I ever wanted." Even as he waved the disks, Clark wondered if he wasn't aiming too low.

"Clark!" Pete's voice boomed from the corn, shattering Clark's cerebration. He spun to greet his friend, shoving the disks back into Jessie's bag.

"Pete?" Surprise rose before Clark could stop it. By the time he swiveled, he'd recovered - and donned a "You have GOT to be kidding me expression." "What'd it take - the whole study group to find me?" Clark's lips shifted, reshaping themselves into a malevolent smile that was both oddly familiar and singularly frightening.

Pete's eyes narrowed and hardened. "No. Lionel Luthor heard you mention Jessie." Pete shifted his focus to the girl sitting on the dirt in the middle of a cornfield. "Jessie, RUN!" He waved his arms to visually indicate the urgency.

Jessie didn't run. She hauled ass, disappearing into the stalks.

"How far's she gonna get, Pete? A mile or two?" Clark closed the distance between the two of them, using his size on his friend for the first time since he'd had the growth spurt to intimidate. "You know no one can get away from me." Pete swallowed. Clark stood inches away from the smaller teen, and leaned in, his eyes searching, cold, focused, as he looked for any sign of weakness and a reason to strike.

Pete thought "arrogant much?" and, had circumstances not been so dire, he might have actually said it. Right now though, it was all he could do to not piss his pants. He'd never seen Clark like this. Not even when he'd accused him of stealing the spaceship. Sociopathic. Evil.

Only one way to stop the unstoppable.

"Clark!" Jonathan's voice split the air. Clark turned. Shit, not him too. "I'm not gonna let you hurt anybody else."

"Still trying to tell me what to do." His back to Pete, Clark advanced toward his father.

As he neared Jonathan Kent, he saw it.

Smelled it.

Fear.

The aroma was absolutely unmistakable. Clark found visual confirmation in Jonathan's eyes. He asked tauntingly, "Are you scared?" as his father shifted, the sledgehammer held high.

Jonathan put on his "football face."

"Then again," Clark continued, enjoying the strange turn of events, "you and Mom were always afraid of me."

"We've had nothing but love for you," Jonathan stated defiantly, even as he felt his knees about to give out. "That makes what I'm about to do all the more difficult."

Now what was the ol' man up to?

"Pete!" Jonathan gave a curt nod of his head. "Do it."

Clark turned, confused. He instantly arrived at the only logical conclusion.

Clark hadn't thought them bold enough to try it, but either Pete or his father had come armed with the weapon of choice - green meteor rock.

Goddamn Hamilton.

Clark didn't want to run. He thought to, for a millisecond. As Pete reached to open the box, Clark snatched it, shutting it as he yanked it away before Pete could react.

Pete had never stood so close to someone who looked like he was about to kill him. Hamilton at least had the jittery insane thing. Clark had Armani, silk and composure.

Suddenly, Pete was very afraid. He'd expected much worse than the tossing he got. Christ, he thought Hamilton had sailed, but by the time he hit the ground, he knew Clark was saving more for later and just wanted his ass out of the way.

Pete landed on his tailbone. Pain spiked up his vertebrae, knocking the wind out of him.

He hoped Jonathan fared better.

Clark looked disbelieving at the sledgehammer, and Jonathan instantly recognized his plan - and the tool's presumed effectiveness - were gone.

Jonathan tossed the sledgehammer aside.

Clark tilted his head playfully. "Not gonna put up a fight?"

"Clark, we both know it'd be a little one-sided."

Clark conjured up the sincere sarcastic tone he'd delivered so flawlessly when told about the effects of the ring. "Really? C'mon, Dad, be a man. At least, spout a platitude. Those've been sadly lacking in the last day or two."

"You know the difference between right and wrong."

"Allow me to play Ebert here." Clark leaned in and whispered. "Not your best work."

Clark took a step, and stood directly in front of his adoptive father. He stared into Jonathan's eyes and saw not fear, but determination - and love.

It sickened him.

"Yes, the difference between 'right' and 'wrong' is one pays, one doesn't." Clark pouted. "Why didn't you tell me? But maybe we can get past this. A hug - does wonders doesn't it?"

Clark wrapped his arms around the man who'd raised him for fourteen of his seventeen years. He thought he might feel something as Jonathan's flesh compressed, collapsing into bone.

Pete angled himself near upright. He was still sitting, wondering how long it would take for the throbbing to stop. He thought he caught a glimpse of Clark and Jonathan embracing and considered maybe he and Mr. Kent had underestimated Clark's will power.

Maybe he finally listened to reason and just gave up the ring. Pete happily indulged the fantasy until it was rendered utterly improbable.

Pete watched the former Smallville High football star crumple.

Goddamn, stakes is high. Stakes is HIGH. Pete ran, hoping, praying that Clark wouldn't come after him.

Because, if he did, if Clark decided to give chase, Pete knew he would be dead.

Clark's initial impulse was to scare the man who knew him better than anyone one. He took delight in watching Jonathan's stoic face, knowing the truth lay not in gently weathered skin or the twisting of features, but in his eyes. To the uninitiated, it would appear that Jonathan was heroically holding his ground.

Clark wasn't the uninitiated. He knew all to well how to read the signs, no matter how veiled.

Clark watched fear dance behind the apparent blankness of Jonathan Kent's blue gaze. He felt Jonathan's heartbeat increase as he reached out.

Pain was what Clark initially planned. As he squeezed, the "hug" went from twisted reference to the obligatory to life threatening. "Thanks, Dad," Clark whispered. He considered, hesitating only briefly. The man trapped within his arms knew all his secrets; therefore, the man was liability and obstacle.

Obstacles were meant to be overcome, removed whatever the cost.

This was the thought that went through his mind as he squeezed the life from the farmer, the man who had been his father and raised a stranger from a strange land as though he were his own flesh and blood.

Clark would deal with Martha Kent and Pete later. In the meantime, he had strategies to form. The million dollars looked good, but Clark decided there was so much more for the taking.

Of course, he'd need help. The meteor rock allergy was clearly a problem.

Girls were good for certain things. Sex being one of them. The night with Jessie proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt. He just needed to find the right girl. Someone who'd gladly walk through Hell if he asked.

Clark figured after a night with him, he'd have no worries about loyalty, willingness. He hadn't gotten Jessie to pledge herself to him. The strong-arm tactics would have their place. Just not here, not now. He wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

Clark strolled over to Jonathan's truck. He smashed the front grill with his fist, jack-hammering his way through the engine block.

Then he flipped the truck - just in case. Pete was still out there somewhere, but if he were smart, he'd keep his distance. If not...

Clark cocked his head thoughtfully.

Next stop, The Beanery.

Clark was hardly seen at this coffee house these days, and since most Crows hung out at the Talon, he was unlikely to cross paths with anyone to whom he'd have to explain himself. He might also find someone...interesting. A playmate who could be Bonnie to his...(snicker) Clyde.

Clark walked through the door, alert to the possibilities. He picked a booth, ordered a coffee, and caught the eye of a delicious piece of womanness. Jet black hair, azure eyes and lips that begged "Taste Me."

"I think we have a winner," Clark spoke aloud.


Pete stopped running long enough to consider the truck. He oriented himself and headed for the vehicle.

The sight of mangled steel and tormented rubber made him feel like he'd slammed into a brick wall doing ninety. "Fuck. Holy. Fuck..." The truck lay, a pretzeled hulk. "Jesus." Pete put a hand to his mouth, soaking in the enormity of the damage.

Clark had become Eric Summers - PLUS. Eric had an excuse. All Clark had was an apparent lack of impulse control due to an alien allergy.

And more power than should be anyone's.

Pete never wished he had a cell phone until now. His legs wobbled, he saw the landscape before him sift out of focus before it went from dim to dark.

Pete collapsed, his mind hoping against hope when he picked himself up from the gravel that was imprinting his face that what he'd experienced was no more than a horrific nightmare, rendered painfully vivid by way too much pizza at lunch.

Of course, the throbbing in his ass told him otherwise.


Clark caught the eye of the woman. She was standing, hip cocked against the counter, looking despite full coverage of all things, like sex on a stick. She leaned forward a bit, turning her back toward Clark, giving him an eyeful.

Clark wet his bottom lip with his tongue and allowed it to linger there as he bit down. *Da-yum, that ass was...hella fyine*. Clark chuckled. Clark Kent, ass man. Who knew?

Okay, time to quit fucking around. The girl walked toward his table, eyes fixed on a chair beyond him. Clark figured a cute meet was in the offing, courtesy a heat vision assist. He just had to time it right.

Clark summoned a very brief, very focused spurt. The linoleum in front of the girl buckled slightly as it heated and cooled, making the floor surface uneven. By the time she stumbled, Clark had positioned himself precisely. Oh sure, he could've keep them both from falling. But where was the fun in that?

Clark grabbed the girl as she tumbled, twisting to make sure he landed on the floor and she landed on him. He made the requisite Ooooomph sound and waited.

"Omigod. Shit. Are you... Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry."

Clark gnawed back a smirk. Hook.

The girl levered herself up. Her face was crimson. She extended a hand. Clark accepted as he pushed himself up from the floor.

"The judges'll probably award you a '10' for that tumble." All teeth. Predator, masked by remnants of farm boy charm.

The woman adjusted Clark's clothing sheepishly. "Are you all right?"

"I was gonna ask you."

"I landed on you."

"Oh yeah." Clark touched the back of his head, feigning injury. "Ow... I think I might've -"

"Lemme see." Hand to head, Clark rotated, leaning to afford the girl a better view. The girl inspected the area. She pushed back dark tufts of nearly curling hair. "Looks oksy."

Clark shifted, turning back to face the girl. Their eyes locked, and Clark saw his opening.

Slowly, Clark angled his head, moving close enough to feel the girl's breath on his face.

She didn't need to be told. Line.

Or asked.

Quite refreshing actually. She brushed her lips against his, slicking them with gloss.

Then she pressed forward.

Clark kissed her lightly at first, inviting her to return the gesture.

She reciprocated. Sinker.

Clark gathered the woman into his arms and held her tightly. His tongue moved inhumanly.

"Sweet jebus," she sputtered, gasping for air and stifling a moan. "Where'd you learn to do that?"

Clark shrugged. "It's just the way I'm built." He brushed his hand along her arm delicately. "I don't even know your name."

"Gwen."

"Clark." He was on top of her again. This time, in spite of her efforts, a small moan escaped.

"I've already creamed my thong, and if you keep doing that, there's a very good chance I'm gonna come right here."

"And this would be a problem why?"

"You don't look like an exhibitionist."

"Appearances can be deceiving."

"I prefer someplace a little less...public." Gwen took Clark's hand. "At least, the first time."

To the casual observer, it looked like a cartoon, Gwen's dragging Clark from The Beanery. She tossed him her keys.

Lana appeared in the window of the Talon in time to see Clark driving off in...a strange woman's car. With a strange woman.

She turned away from the window, balancing the empty au lait glasses as she pivoted on her heels. What was with Clark Kent?


Pete was struggling. He managed to get to Route 90. He walked, hoping to hitch a ride.

Not a single taker until Chloe's vehicle rumbled into sight. Pete would've laughed if the pain hadn't been so blinding. Yo, Chlo, Midasize that shit.

"Pete?" she muttered. Chloe brought the car to a stop. "What the hell? Are you - Why're -" Chloe finally managed a complete sentence. "Do you need a ride?"

"Yeah." Pete shifted, attempting feebly to dull the ache. "I need to get to the Creekside Foundry. Or better yet -" Pete felt like his ass was on fire. Fuck. Fuck... "Church near Hobson's pond."

"Uh, why?"

"Chloe," Pete paused, selecting his words very carefully. "Something's happening. I cannot spill details right now, but I need your help. Will you help me?"

"Gee, Pete." How could he even ask? "You know I got your back."

"Music to my ears." Pete tried to get comfortable. It wasn't possible. And the car wasn't even moving yet. "We need to grab as many meteor rocks as we can."

"Meteor rocks?" Chloe's reporter mode had engaged. Her eyes were bright, expectant. Pete could almost imagine what her brain looked like. Chloe Sullivan's brain on "story." A house with many rooms with many doors. Interviews, action, suspicions, all swung wide. Friendship door slightly ajar, not closed completely, so somewhere in there -

The pain was fucking with his head.

"Chloe," Pete bit his tongue, centered himself. He inhaled and exhaled, blinking back angry tears. She needed to give it a rest. For real. "Not now. Just...help me."


The girl tugged the key from the lock. The stained glass paneled door swung wide, opening into rust walled foyer.

Clark stepped through into the entryway quietly, moving in tandem with the girl as though he were her shadow. He walked slightly beyond her, taking in a vista of elegant comfort.

"Your place?"

"Parents'."

Clark slipped a long arm around a tiny waist and drew her into the living room. "What time'll they be home?"

"Two weeks."

"Really."

"They're on vacation."

Clark pulled Gwen into him, brushed his lips teasingly about her face. "Should we even be here?" he asked facetiously, now planting gentle kisses, "Doing this?"

"Actually," Gwen pulled away. "I should be studying. Academic probation. Metropolis University. First semester. Welcome to the city."

"Studying?" Clark had picked a spot on Gwen's neck before she noticed he'd moved. He touched it gingerly, sweeping dark hair back. "Anatomy?" Clark planted a baby kiss on her neck that sent a shudder through her. He continued up her neck, stopping momentarily to suck on her earlobe. "We could try for some extra credit."

Clark's tongue flicked inside her ear. Christ, how was he doing that? Again sound escaped, a husky exhalation of satisfaction.

Clark slipped a hand under her shirt, unhooking her bra effortlessly. He dug his fingers into the fabric of the shirt, sheering it apart.

Gwen's blouse fell to the floor.

Clark stepped back to admire his handiwork - and the breasts in front of him. Um, perky.

He liked perky.

Especially where mammaries were concerned.

Gwen pouted. "No fair."

"What?" Clark drew her into him with a graceful sweep of his arm.

"Your shirt. Equal opportunity."

"I'm shy."

She rolled her eyes. "My ass."

Clark twisted in order to reinspect the ass in question. "Likin' it." He smiled, looking straight into her eyes, flashing a shark grin.

"Take it off." Gwen's tone was playfully demanding.

"If you insist." She didn't leave the room, she didn't blink, but somehow, the tall man in front of her was standing stark naked. Displaying body aplenty.

All over.

Excited body aplenty.

"How'd -"

Clark silenced her with a feverish kiss. He slipped a hand under her skirt, peeling away the thong.

Gwen paused momentarily. "Can you hand me that?" She pointed, indicating the small, funky handbag she'd been carrying earlier. Clark obliged and watched as she withdrew small silver square.

"You're not allergic to Nonoxynol -"

Clark grinned. "No."

Gwen opened the condom packet easily.

"You've done this before," mentioned Clark casually.

Gwen touched Clark's erection lightly. "Once or twice." With butterfly delicacy, she unfurled the latex sheath over his penis. "Now, where were we?"

With Clark's able assistance, Gwen wrapped her legs about him. "You never answered - " The query disappeared into second deep, wet, energized lip-tongue volley.

Instantly, Gwen decided to make herself content, shut up and take what was clearly shaping up to be the ride of her life.


Chloe stopped the car, but Pete was through the door before she'd put the vehicle in "park." She swore she saw him wince - and was he walking funny? "Pete?"

Pete spun.

"That 'help' thing. You want some? Or was this just a transport issue?"

Help. "Right." Just that quickly, from the time it took him to get out of the car and walk three paces, Pete had forgotten he couldn't do this alone. Well, he did have a thing or two on his mind.

Pete winced again. Adrenaline must've been keeping him upright, but the pain was starting to wear on him. He walked back to the car. "What've you got in the trunk?"

Chloe climbed from the vehicle, circling the Valiant. She opened the trunk, revealing a stockpile of emergency supplies. "Anticipating the apocalypse?" Pete smiled in spite of the throbbing.

"It's Smallville," Chloe said flatly. "You never know."

Pete lifted an eyebrow. He spotted a large duffle bag, grabbed it and headed for the crypt.

"Meteor rocks?" asked Chloe.

"Meteor rocks."

"You know they cause mutations."

"Under the right conditions."

"Or prolonged exposure."

Pete spun back to face his friend. Shit, he hurt like HELL, his best friend was in more trouble than he knew how to handle and he still fucking felt bound to protect him. He could've been more diplomatic, given time and some painkillers, but he didn't have either. He spoke quickly, his tone reflecting the bitter harshness of the current reality. "I DON'T need a lecture right now on the dangers of meteor rock."

Chloe recoiled. Had she ever seen Pete like this? Okay, once, under the influence of the Nicodemus flower. No pollen, no spewing of anti-Lexisms. Something else was going on. "Sorry. Really. So not my intent." She smiled cherubically. "Help?"

Some of the tension left Pete's body hearing the gentleness of Chloe's offer of assistance. "Please."

Pete stepped down into the bowels of the old church. Chloe followed, observing quietly. Pete grabbed as many of the rocks as quickly as he could. He groaned under the weight of the duffle bag. Chloe extended a hand to assist. Pete smiled, grateful, for the first time in hours.

"Chloe, you wouldn't happen to have your cell phone."

"Always."

"Can I -"

"Sure." Chloe reached into her messenger bag, retrieving the phone as they climbed the stairs.

Pete placed the bag on the dirt and left Chloe standing alone. He dialed the Kent house.

The phone rang, unanswered. "C'mon. C'mon." Pete shot a glance back to Chloe who regarded him curiously. He pivoted, spoke tersely to the machine. "Mrs. Kent, it's Pete Ross. I'll be there in about 15 minutes. If -" Pete's voice broke. What if he was already too late?

He disconnected the call.

Pete walked back to Chloe, snatched the bag up, and shoved the phone at her as he walked to the car's trunk.

Chloe didn't mean to pry, but there were some things that were just reflexive.

She hit redial. Clark's number came up from her caller id.

Pete was weirdly pissy. Clark was MIA. What the fuck was going on? And what'd it have to do with the perennial mystery that was Clark Kent?


Gwen lay on her back on her parents' king-sized bed. Clark wouldn't permit her to remove the comforter, so here she was, shirtless, skirt askew, prone on goose down. She heard fabric tear and realized as her flesh was revealed, Clark had had his swift way with the skirt too.

Gwen looked up at her large visitor. The living room had proven fun, but she had no idea how she'd explain the damage where Clark had reached for purchase.

Maybe her parents wouldn't notice.

Right.

He'd crumbled a handful of the stone edging around the fireplace. She wanted to say "old stone" by way of excuse and explanation, but she knew better: she'd brought home someone with enough hand strength to reduce rock to dust.

And now, she was in bed with him.

Gwen looked up into the green eyes that had appealed so instantly at the Beanery. She drank in the olive skin, the body that moved with animal grace. As Clark leaned over her, there was a glitch of clarity. What the fuck was she doing? She liked her men short. She liked short men...

The clarity faded unexplainably. Shit. Shit...shit... he was... Ohmigod.

Clark gathered both Gwen's easily wrists in one hand. He stretched her arms over her head. He drew his tongue down her neck and continued downward, pausing to circle her nipples. He lingered, sucking left, right, left sweetly, then continued downward. He used his free hand to finger circles around her navel, stopping momentarily to feather touch a piercing.

Clark was tall enough to hold onto Gwen's hands as his head bobbed lower. The pink of his tongue flicked out, touching the small mound and taunted her violently with alternating speed and pressure.

Gwen arched involuntarily. The rhythm of her breathing became steady panting as Clark licked and fingered, still holding her to the bed.

She could feel it welling up inside, begging for release. And whenever she got near enough, Clark would stop. "Please." The word escaped before she could prevent it.

With a world of patience, Clark studied her. He hesitated, then, surprisingly, obliged.

What followed was part scream, part moan, part song.

Clark drew back and whistled quietly.


The Chrysler drifted to a stop on the gravel-dirt surface of the Kent's driveway. "Pete," Chloe began, the intention to prod. She knew less than nothing about what was going on. Correction: she knew Pete knew; she knew Clark was involved.

Chloe tilted her head slightly and caught Pete's reflection in the rear view mirror. He seemed distracted, distant, and...afraid. She couldn't be sure about the last assessment. The emotion didn't remain long enough for her to gauge it fully. It absented itself, replaced by determination.

"Yeah," said Pete.

"Never mind," Chloe responded. There were other ways to get the information she sought.

Pete nodded appreciatively. It wasn't like Chloe to give up so easily. Maybe her weirdar had a compassion switch after all.

Or she just got the urgency.

Pete climbed from the car, the duffle bag in tow, and ambled up the driveway. He turned in time to see the Falcon spit dust and disappear down the highway.

Pete visibly relaxed. His plan (uh, what plan?) was at best a make-do. He might have bought them some time. And Chloe would be okay for the moment. As long as she stayed away.

Pete dragged the duffle bag toward the house. Bullet dodged, he thought.

What Pete didn't know was that Chloe hadn't given up. She had instead pointed herself in the direction of the Talon, suspecting Lana might perhaps be able to shed some light on today's CK weirdness.


Gwen was getting a piggy-back ride. The silk robe eased open, exposing flesh to the naked man to whom she clung. She savored the tightness of his body, the sheer power of it as supple flesh buffed muscle.

Clark stopped at the liquor cabinet, pausing to remove a decanter of scotch. Juggling both, he bounced Gwen a couple of times and pretended to lose his grip. Gwen swore he dropped her, but before she could consider the rush of air and the flash of surroundings, she was on Clark's back once more, bobbing into the kitchen.

Clinging to Clark, Gwen felt wildly giddy, like that seven-year-old riding mad air off a ramp, swimming in an unfathomable high from the sex and the presence of the boy/man. My fucking God, where'd he learn to do those things anyhow?

"Are you hungry?" Clark asked, depositing Gwen on a high-backed stool.

"Not really." Gwen shrugged. "Not much of a cook."

Clark nodded. "I'm not the world's greatest, but I can make a few things."

The hand poised to indicate glass location was withdrawn soundlessly as Clark pulled the handle of the cabinet as though he knew where things were stored. He continued to do this, removing a plate and flatware as Gwen watched. She grew up in Smallville. She knew strange things happened. But this was off the charts.

Clark poured scotch into a highball glass, stopping just short of the rim. "Want some?" he offered, reaching for a second glass. Gwen declined, shifting in the seat as Clark emptied the glass. He refilled it, catching Gwen's concern from the corner of his eye. "Don't worry. I could drink the whole bottle - nuthin'."

Gwen watched intently for some sign that the alcohol took hold. He'd downed a helluva lot of scotch.

Nothing.

Just like he'd said.

"So, why drink it?"

Clark paused, then smiled deviously. "Because I can."

Clark opened the refrigerator. "What're you in the mood for?" He removed bacon and eggs and a beef roast.


Lex exited Jessie's house from the rear. He'd seen a lot of things in Metropolis - and, curiously, in some ways more while in Smallville. Even so, he hadn't exactly been prepared for the odd vista before him: pummeled solid oak furniture, smashed television... Not to mention the Kent truck. The battered vehicle recalled his own accident with painful clarity. Except here, the damage looked intentional.

Lex spotted footprints and followed them into the cornfield. There, he discovered property had not been the only casualty of what was beginning to look like a tantrum.

Lex flipped open his cell phone. "Yes. Please. As soon as possible."

He hadn't thought ill of Jonathan Kent. He'd grown rather fond of trying to prove himself to the hard-nosed farmer. With Jonathan, unlike Lionel, Lex felt like he had a chance.

Those days were gone.

Lex would make sure Mr. Kent was taken care of. He'd also find who - or what - was responsible for the destruction.

Lex stooped, angling himself slowly forward. Gently, he drew his hand over Jonathan Kent's face, closing the farmer's eyes.


Pete salted the meteor rocks around the house perimeter. The concentration at Hamilton's lab had been large, but Jonathan believed the duo shards they brought to Jessie's would suffice. If only he'd been faster.

Pete inspected his efforts. Satisfied, he stuck one rock in his pocket and headed toward the house.

"Pete?" Martha Kent pulled open the screen door and stepped from the kitchen. The scent of cinnamon and apples drifted from the house, taking Pete momentarily aback. Mrs. Kent, apple pie, the glint in her blue eyes, half smile, warm, open -

Pete flinched, snatched back to the real. Then the pain returned: double-headed, physical, emotional - all too authentic. How was he supposed to say -

"Are those meteor rocks? Pete?" Martha Kent squinted involuntarily. A mom look. "What's going on?"

Pete said nothing.

Saying nothing instantly made everything worse.

Pete watched as the glint in Martha Kent's eyes faded. He ushered her inside the house, still lugging the bag and the few meteor rocks that remained.

Pete locked the screen door, then, as an afterthought, locked the storm door. He crossed the house, locking the front door as well. The locks wouldn't stop Clark, but they'd sure as hell stop anyone else who had a mind to just walk in.

Martha followed Pete, her brow furrowed. "Where's Clark? Where's -" Martha's voice dropped to a husky whisper, "Where's Jonathan?"

Pete tried to speak. He tried to give voice to the words "Your son killed your husband. Your husband is dead." But the sentences caught in the swirl inside his head, a place where impossibility fought for supremacy over actuality and seemed on the verge of winning.

"No." Martha stumbled back, grasping at the counter's edge. "No," she repeated, the word barely audible. Martha inhaled deeply, pulling the query from unknown reserves. "Are you sure?"

"I couldn't - I didn't - But -" Pete opened the duffle bag and handed Martha a meteor rock. "I put them around the house. They'll keep him out."

Martha turned the rock over in her hands. "If he comes here."

"He will. We know. And if he doesn't -"

"We'll have to find him."

Martha hugged Pete. The pain remained, but the comfort of the embrace afforded the luxury of tears.

Beyond the kitchen, the sunset bathed the farmhouse in Crayola hues. Inside, Pete and Martha clutched each other as new and bottled grief met, expanded and spilled freely.


The decanter was empty. Gwen turned to Clark, fascination evident. Clark paused before speaking. "Not drunk." He hesitated, the gap thick with meaning. "Scotch reminds me of someone."

"Pleasantly?"

"Definitely." Clark lifted the chair, spinning Gwen around to face him directly. Egg shells lay scattered in the sink behind him. The roast beef was gone, although a bit of the juice lingered on the side of his mouth. "We never did determine what you wanted."

Gwen watched as the juice glistened under the kitchen light. She leaned, reaching out for Clark's face.

Instinctively, Clark leaned in, affording Gwen the opportunity to tongue away the beef liquor. Unable to avoid the temptation of his mouth, she sought his lips after making sure she fully sucked away the blood taste of the meat.

Gwen's tongue met Clark's, the salt-scotch flavors more intoxicating than seemed reasonable.

Clark disengaged. His eyes were foggy with anticipation. "The question. To eat. What're you in the mood for?"

Gwen licked her lips. Her face mimicked Clark's. "Me?" I'm thinking 'reciprocity'. For before."

That stopped Clark cold. "Oh?" Clark turned, hard all over again.

Gwen eyed the arrow straight erection. "Um-hmm. Maybe I can help you with that. C'mere."

Gwen planted her hands on Clark's ass and her lips on his dick. She sucked and tongue teased, playing with Clark's balls as he arched and grabbed for the counter. His fingers dug into marble surface, leaving indentations as he came.

Clark's semen tasted sweet and tangy.

The pink tinge went unnoticed by both of them as Gwen swallowed.

Gwen's eyes rolled back, then closed momentarily as she pulled away. Her head lolled, her lips curled. Utter. Complete. Bliss.

One lazy eye opened. She looked up into Clark's face and saw a similar expression.

Gwen's last cogent thought: she would do anything to feel like this again.


Lex stood on the Kent porch. He saw Pete and Martha through the window, seated wordlessly at the kitchen table. He reached for the door handle, pulled, and discovered - much to his surprise - that the door was locked. A sure sign something was horribly, horribly wrong in the Kent household. As if he had any doubts after finding the body of Jonathan Kent.

Lex rang the bell. "Mrs. Kent?"

Pete's eyes narrowed involuntarily. Martha Kent rose, stopping as Pete touched her lightly on the hand.

"Pete -" She tilted her head. "I'm - It's all right."

Pete wanted to say something, but all he had were suspicions. Besides, if she hadn't listened to her own husband about Lex, why should she listen to a high school kid? Pete had witnessed Martha Kent navigate treacherous waters on other occasions. He decided Mrs. K had what it took to handle Lex readily.

Pete withdrew his hand and nodded. He watched Martha Kent cross the house and shook his head. Luthor's timing was, as always, impeccable. How was it Lex always managed to turn up at wholly inappropriate moments anyway?

Martha checked herself in the hall mirror as she made her way to the door. Not exactly a vision of perfection, but passable for her son's -

Son... Husband...

Martha's breath hitched, stopping her momentarily. She focused, drawing air deeply. She exhaled and continued.

The door swung open minimally. Lex started into the house only to find his entry attempt thwarted. Curious, he stepped back. "Sorry to stop by without calling."

Martha's head dipped politely.

Lex continued. "I wanted to check back and see how things were with Clark. He didn't come back to the mansion. Is he...here?"

"No." The word was thick, devoid of Martha Kent's characteristic maternal warmth. Preoccupation or emotional distancing?

Lex made a mental note.

"Have I interrupted something?"

"No." The Martha Kent with whom Lex was familiar percolated to the surface. "But I've got -"

"Pete."

"He's like family, but I still -"

Lex shook his head knowingly. "Wouldn't want to be rude. And I would not want to contribute. I understand completely." Lex shifted, taking a quarter-step. He stopped. "You take care." The utterance came with such sincerity it made Martha's heart stop. "And if you need anything, anything, you call me, you understand?

Martha sifted through emotions. It occurred to her as she peered into (presumably) indecipherable blue orbs: Did he know something? What she said was: "Thank you, Lex."

Martha patted him gently on the arm, then headed back into the house, closing the door softly behind her.

On his way down the porch steps, Lex noticed the meteor rocks. He turned back to the house to see if anyone would see him as he leaned over to collect one.

The coast was clear.


Chloe stepped tentatively into the Talon's main room. She caught Lana's eye, smiled shyly.

"Chloe." Unintentional surprise rose from Lana, but Chloe's unexpected visit was actually a welcome one. "What're you doing here?"

"Have you seen Clark?"

"Not since earlier." There was a beat before she added, "Saw him getting into someone's car."

Chloe squinted meaningfully. "Male or female?"

"Female." The word hit the air hard as Chloe and Lana considered its significance.

"Two girls. Two days. Clark Kent - playa? Uh, what's wrong with this picture?"

"It's not Clark," said Lana flatly. She put down the tray, and turned her back to Chloe, pausing long enough to adjust glasses on the counter. "Chloe," Lana pivoted to face her friend. "He took me to a bar for our first date. Shy, awkward Clark. Then proceeded to do just about everything but get naked on the dance floor with Jessie."

"Have you spoken to Pete?" inquired Lana.

"I've seen Pete. As for significant and consequential discourse -"

Chloe turned on her heels and headed for the exit. "If you see him - Clark - could you have him call me?"

Lana smiled brightly. "Sure. And if you find out -"

"I'll letcha know."


Clark was bored. The sexcapades were beyond rush inducing, thanks to his production of a turbo-charged alien narcotic. Fortunately, he'd been able to share the heightened pleasure chemicals with his chair, floor, wall, shower, floor, bed, divan partner. Unfortunately, the repeated potent highs seemed to have worn her completely out.

Clark made a note. Alien constitution comes in handy yet again.

Clark had carried Gwen to bed about fifteen minutes earlier. The poor thing was having trouble keeping her eyes open. Against his own (well hidden) desires, he succumbed to her need for spooning. It was fun, uh, for the first thirty seconds, and so not what he felt like right now. But what did he want to do? And to whom?

Inspiration hit as he shifted. A street light shone on canine teeth revealed by a half-twist of a smile.

Immediately, Clark disengaged from the unconscious woman. Leaping from divan, he was dressed and was out the window in a single bound.

The night smelled of autumn. The air's crispness further invigorated Clark who felt as though every nerve end was tingling. He had several stops in mind. He decided on a familiar Destination One.

Lex was always happy to see him.

Clark arrived at the mansion, easily clearing the fence, bypassing the security cameras and guards in a blink. He leapt from ground to balcony, landing gracefully.

As Lex slept, a silhouette appeared at the balcony window, tall, ominous, unmoving. Clark watched Lex from the distance, taking in the rhythm of the unconscious man's breathing, the sprawl of his athletic form rendered visible by the curves of delicately textured pajamas.

Clark tilted his head.

Lex stirred. Clark took the movement as an invitation. "Why, thank you," said Clark quietly as he sauntered in. Surely, he could get what he wanted before Lex even know he'd been there.

But where was the fun in that?

Clark walked around the sleep chamber. He plopped himself in an overstuffed chair, stretching his legs onto the footrest.

Still nothing from Lex. Rich boy slept like a dead man.

Suddenly, Clark was standing at the foot of the bed. He walked slowly around the king sized mattress, fingers grazing the silky coverings as he made his way around the bed. He'd seen the look in Lex's face earlier. He'd feigned unawareness of the carnal desire anchoring the millionaire's gaze, but the fact was, if Lex had heat vision and Clark was a human being, he would've been Kent flamb.

What, Clark wondered, would Lex do if he found Clark in here?

So near.

So close.

So...willing.

Clark considered rousing him to find out.

Focus...focus...

Clark scanned the room and found the penthouse keys located somewhat inconveniently in an organizer in the back of one of the large walk-in closets. He took them and headed out into the night.

When Lex awakened, he had the oddest sense that something happened while he slumbered. The mangled latch on the balcony's French doors confirmed that someone had been in his bedroom, but security videos and reports from Lionel's much-vaunted security force yielded no information.

Wrapping the silk robe about him, Lex strode into the closet and removed the meteor rock he'd acquired from the Kent farm from the lead box. The mildly displaced organizer caught his immediate attention.

Lex hesitated before opening the organizer. When he did, he discovered the Metropolis penthouse key was missing.


Clark yawned. He hadn't gotten much sleep, and whoa, running on all cylinders seemed to take more out of him than he'd expected. He sat at the kitchen table, sipping black coffee from an oversized mug. The pot he made moments ago was near empty, guzzled more for flavor than stimulant effect. He'd have to make another if Gwen ever decided to get out of bed. Not that bed was a bad place to be. He considered joining her. A different kind of wake-up, to be sure.

The Ledger rested on the table just beyond his hand. Neatly folded, the paper's headline screamed something about a bank robbery. A photograph depicted exploded wall remains. A caption read: "Vault Breached - Method Unknown."

"Clark?" Gwen's voice drifted in from the rear of the house. Clark tilted his head and dallied, fingering the coffee cup.

"Claaaaaaaaarrrrrk!" The unmistakable sound of fear edged her voice.


The weight of it confined her to the bed, the "it" in question being unidentifiable under the circumstances. Apparently, "it" was everywhere.

And oddly...crunchy.

It also smelled vaguely like -

"Yes?" Clark appeared instantly, his face hovering above hers. As quickly as he'd appeared, he disappeared, only to reappear again as he scooted next to Gwen who was

on top of and covered by

bills

now floating

hundred dollar bills

drifting around the room

around their heads

like a blizzard.

Released, Gwen shifted, turning to Clark who propped himself up on an elbow. "Haven't you ever wondered what it'd be like to be rolling in money?" Clark grabbed a hold of the woman. "I have." He kissed her greedily. "And now," Clark snatched a handful of bills from the air, "I know."

Clark handed Gwen the currency. She inspected the bills. They looked real. They smelled real. But how -

"I shouldn't ask."

"No," said Clark sharply.

"Fair enough. So? What's next?"

"After we fuck until we can't?" Clark paused wistfully. "Well, until you can't. I say," Clark stroked Gwen's face tenderly, "we go shopping."

Clark pulled Gwen toward him, kissing her hungrily as they rolled harshly onto the floor, scattering Benjamins.

Luckily, it was Clark who hit the floor.

Shopping. Yes.

Then, he'd go home.


Neither Pete nor Martha slept well that night - if they slept at all. Pete insisted on staying at the Kent Farm; Martha called his parents and made the very credible "concerned about Clark, Jonathan's away" speech, not that she had to persuade the Rosses.

Whatever Martha told Liz Ross would be fine. Uttering those specific words was more about breathing life into a lie. If she used language when language should have failed, if she said these things aloud, maybe, just maybe -

Sadly, Real Life had a way of disrupting fantasy. Martha tried sleeping on the couch (she didn't), and now, instead of feeling rested, she felt stiffness creeping through her. Not to mention unwelcome sluggishness.

Pete was asleep in the chair. He seemed blissful, right until the moment he woke up, arms flailing, screaming.

Martha blinked. Clark had done some number on both of them.

Martha sparred with the impulse to cry. She knew there was no going back, no matter how many lies she recited, no matter how much she wished or to what God she prayed.

Martha padded across the wood floor, sliding on the house shoes Clark had given her last Christmas.

My sweet gift from Heaven.

My blessing.

My wish come true.

"Shhh," she said to Pete, balancing carefully on the arm of the chair. She drew him close and held him tightly.

Pete fought back tears, this set a mingle of pain, frustration and animosity in equal proportions. He'd only come close to feeling this powerless once. Another Clark (mis)adventure - the Dr. Hamilton fiasco. Why hadn't Mr. Kent's fuckin' plan worked? screamed Pete's brain. Pete's lips were otherwise involved as he gnawed them angrily.


The scruuunch-swish of leather filled the house. The spree had resulted in the purchase of a lot of cowhide - and damn near everything they could find in black.

As well as sunglasses. Lots and lots of sunglasses. Clark also insisted Gwen purchase several pairs of CFMPs - his favorites were the acrylic mules with the mega-platforms and stiletto heels. Daaaayuum. He would've pondered the apparent development of a shoe fetish, but he was in the midst of making plans. *And lookin' good*. Ok, maybe a little Keanu/Matrix.

Clark snickered. Maybe he'd rename Gwen.

Maybe he'd rename himself. "Clark" wasn't his choice, and if he was all about being himself, a change might be in order.

Gwen stepped from the bedroom, a goddamn vision in latex and leather. "Turn around," said Clark. Fuck, that ass looked even better in those pants.

Clark closed the distance between them in a heartbeat. He grabbed Gwen by the waist and placed a finger on her lips, tracing their moist burgundy curve. "What color's that lipstick?"

"Splatter," answered Gwen. She slipped a finger into Clark's waistband.

Up went Clark's eyebrow. "Really? It's so dark, so -" His tongue met hers as he inclined. If they didn't stop, they'd never get out of the house. "- Red." Clark drew a finger over his own mouth, smearing bright scarlet along the digit.

They had things to do.

Places to go.

People to see.

Ok, a quick romp wouldn't derail the entire plan.

Several hours later, Clark and Gwen headed to the Kent farm.


The Ferrari pulled to a stop in beyond the yard. Mashing his foot on the gas pedal, Clark extorted a snarl from the engine and spun the vehicle, spitting gravel and dirt in the car's wake as it came to rest.

Clark cranked the stereo, climbed from the coupe. He opened the door for Gwen.

Gwen immediately began removing the meteor rocks that lined the yard. Clark hadn't been specific about the reasons they needed to go, and she didn't ask. Still, he'd belatedly offered up something about "superstition."

Gwen continued pitching rocks to the far side of the yard. Eventually, Clark had a clear path to the house. "Mom," Clark shouted. "I'm home!"

Inside, Pete and Martha stiffened. While they both suspected it was just a matter of time, Clark not showing up meant he might move on and let them be. His arrival reduced the small hope they held to a tiny wisp of steam, evaporated.

Martha swallowed involuntarily. She collected herself, then patted Pete reassuringly.

Pete peered out the window. "He's not alone," said Pete and watched as Clark grinned and waved at him.

"Who's with him?" Martha sounded surprised.

"A woman."

"Lana? Chloe?"

"No. She sort of looks like 'Trinity' from The Matrix. 'Cept her hair's longer."

Martha craned her neck to see.

"She's on the porch. Clark's in the yard."

Flashing a deadly smile, the alien walked up to the steps and waved again. "Hiya, Pete!"

Pete pulled away from the window. No, fuck it. He wasn't going out like that. He leaned back to the window and shouted through the glass. "Clark, you might wanna rethink this."

"You have got to be kidding me. That's a joke, right?"

"No joke, Clark. You know me. You know what I sound like when I'm serious. Now, you tell me."

"Oh, I think you're serious. But we also know you must be deluded. Step away from the pipe, Pete. And Mom, open up. Get rid of the rocks, and welcome your son."

Pete heard the sound as Martha pumped the shotgun. It shocked him back.

Pete stepped away from the window and turned. No time for questions. No time to think or breathe or speak.

Clark's voice dropped to the growl he'd summoned at the bar with Jessie. "MOM, DON'T MAKE ME COME IN THERE!"

Inside, Martha Kent felt her breath catch.

Outside, Clark nodded to Gwen.

Inside, Martha leveled the gun.

Outside, Clark ran as thunder struck, blasting through the door

projectiles shredding screen, shearing wood.

Clark snatched Gwen from the path of the shells

spinning

fist up

hitting the door

loosing Gwen as

the door ripped from hinges

forcing oak from outside in

Martha Kent fell, off-balance, landing hard and under the door.

Gwen climbed from the toppled barrier. "Kewl."

Martha Kent moaned. Gwen extended a hand, but instead of helping Martha to her feet, reached into her pockets. "Really, it won't be so bad." Gwen pitched the revealed meteor rock across the room. "You've raised quite an extraordinary boy."

Unnoticed, Pete came at Gwen, arm raised as if to swing.

In an instant, Clark was standing between the woman and his best friend.

"No rock Pete?" Clark leaned close. "Some people never learn. By the way - strike two." A fraction of a second later, Pete saw the world blur abound him as he sailed through the kitchen window, courtesy Clark's effortless shirt-grab/backhand toss.

Martha struggled, reaching for the shotgun. Clark tossed the door aside, stepped on his mother's hand. "Sorry, Mom, can't let you do that. I like her. Oh, but you haven't met. Gwen, Mom, Mom, Gwen."

"Mrs. Kent."

Clark curled his toes up, allowing Martha to remove her hand. He then lowered his foot and twisted it, pancaking the gun barrel.

Clark smiled politely, tapped Martha obligingly on the forehead with the palm of his hand and rendered her unconscious.

Clark tossed the inert Martha over his shoulder and headed outside. The Ferrari trunk would be a tight - if not impossible - fit.

Clark planned to make it work. He and Gwen headed for the sports car, bypassing Pete who writhed in the flowerbed. "Clark," managed Pete finally. "Why are you doing this?"

Clark whirled to answer. Gwen stopped and stepped back to stand dangerously near Pete. "Because," she offered, "he can."

Gwen bounced back to Clark. "Mmm, good answer." Clark rewarded her appropriately. The kiss seemed impossibly long. "Such a perfect minion." Clark turned back to the prone form. "Oh, and Pete, if you tell anybody anything - or try to come after me - Martha Kent is dead."

"Clark, man, that's your mother."

"Uh, Pete, we both know I'm adopted. Would love to debate nature/nurture with you, but the schedule's a little full."

Clark secured the trunk (Martha Kent would not be comfortable, but being unconscious, she wouldn't know the difference) and hopped behind the steering wheel.

Clark kissed Gwen again with a fervor that creeped Pete out completely, started the car, put it in gear, and sped off.

As waves of pain rushed through him, Pete knew this time, he would have to go to the hospital. If he could just figure out how the hell he was going to get there.


The Ferrari split the highway at a respectable (if illegal) 90 mph.

Clark cranked Marilyn Manson, turning his head to smile briefly at Gwen whose fingers lingered atop his own on the gearshift.

The sports car purred contentedly as halogen beams forced shadows into retreat.

Clark noticed the trunk was ajar, not much, just enough to catch his eye.

Clark barely avoided putting his foot through the floorboard as he mashed the brakes and downshifted. Contained by the seatbelt, Gwen still bucked violently as the Ferrari swerved to an angled stop.

Clark exited the vehicle hastily and yanked the trunk lid open. He stared angrily into the meagerly lit darkness, exchanging enigmatic glances with Martha.

Martha knew she shouldn't be surprised to see him, but she was.

Clark popped her again in the forehead and ripped the trunk release cord from the interior, using it to bind her.

No more excitement.

Well, not unless it fell within certain welcome parameters.


Chloe pulled to a stop in front of Lana's house. "Thanks for the ride," said Lana. "Chloe?"

The blonde's gaze was fixed on the Kent Farm. "That's ten shades of weird."

"What?"

Chloe turned to Lana. "Have you ever seen Clark's house dark?"

Lana turned to her neighbor's home. "No," she said. Not even a porch light. Her face twisted quizzically. "I hope everything's okay."

"I'm sure it is," Chloe offered lightly. "I mean, why wouldn't it be?"

Lana's nose crinkled. "You're going over there, aren't you?"

"I -"

Lana climbed back into the car. "- I'll come with."

Chloe pulled the car into the Kent drive. The headlights provided illumination in the nick of time, revealing a barely conscious Pete sprawled on the gravel before them. Chloe slammed on the brakes, halting the car inelegantly.

Both young women hurried from the car.

"Jesus... Pete?" Lana put a hand to her mouth. She'd never seen so much blood.

Chloe glanced her companion's way. "It probably looks worse than it is. Head wounds tend to bleed a lot." Chloe flipped open her cell phone. "Yes, we need an ambulance. Right away."

"Don't worry, Pete. It's gonna be alright."

Pete cast a hazy eye in Lana's direction. Things would never be "all right" again.


The underground parking would prove both blessing and curse.

The Ferrari drifted to a stop. Clark handed keys to Gwen. "I'll be right up. Penthouse."

Clark waited what seemed like forever. He had to give Gwen enough time to get upstairs, and he didn't want to be seen strolling in with an unconscious woman. That meant he'd have to move quickly.

He actually found himself hoping Martha Kent wouldn't be damaged.

Dead woman equals less of a bargaining chip.

Seconds ticked into minutes. Clark popped the trunk and removed Martha Kent. Gwen was placing the keys on the coffee table as Clark entered. He deposited Martha on the sofa, untying the release cable.

"Nice place."

"Belongs to a friend."

Clark headed immediately to the bar and poured himself a scotch. He took a lingering pull, then swallowed the rest before pouring a second for himself and one for Gwen.

Gwen didn't notice Martha as she stirred. Ignoring the throbbing in her head, Martha squinted, absorbed the surroundings and picked a target.

The target was Gwen.

The farmer's widow lunged, searching for purchase

snatching a handful of Gwen's hair

pinwheeling the younger woman into the coffee table.

Shattering glass, Gwen landed hard, back first.

The sound got Clark's attention.

Grimacing, Clark sped to his mother. As blue eyes connected with green, Martha Kent saw something she'd never seen in the face of Clark Kent: fury barely contained. She'd seen her son angry, yes, but this...this was absolutely horrific.

Then

stillness.

The stillness made things worse.

Finally, the words came, sliding through clenched teeth. "Big mistake." Clark grabbed Martha's shirt, plucking her from the floor.

A beige flat dangled from one toe, falling, the sound jarring as the shoe thudded heel-sole to wood.

Again,

stillness.

Clark's nostrils flared as he pulled Martha close. If she had been afraid before, that fear now seemed more generic. This was what it was like to know firsthand the world was indeed a scary, bad, evil place.

Martha felt the warmth of Clark's breath upon her, said a prayer, and closed her eyes. This was not a time for reason.

There might not be time for anything anymore.

She noted absently he no longer smelled like Clark. There remained a sweetness to the aroma, but something muskier churned beneath, compounding the terror that promised to devour her.

Martha sailed across the room, landing brutally on the far wall. She slumped unconscious immediately.

Clark took a step in Martha's direction, then stopped. He stared unknowingly at the woman, the maker of apple pies, the relater of bedtime stories, with malice unbefitting the situation. He took another step toward her, halting only after he heard Gwen shift on the glass.

He turned back to Gwen. "You need to be more careful," Clark said, his gruff tone a sharp contrast to the delicate handling of the downed woman.

"You need to be careful," she said. "There's glass everywhere." Gwen winced.

"Yeah," Clark said, absentmindedly removing a jagged fragment from Gwen's hair, "including you."

Clark lifted Gwen gently and carried her to the bathroom. Inside, he removed the remaining shards, adding antiseptic to the minor wounds, kissing attended gashes gingerly.

Clark monitored one cut as red warmth slicked Gwen's back.

Tongue met salty flesh as Clark lapped away the sticky crimson trail.


Chloe's hand lingered on Liz Ross's arm. The Torch editor nodded, catching Lana's eye. Lana sat opposite Pete's mother. Swaddled in hospital linen like a newborn, Pete looked tiny.

Judge Ross rearranged the sheets carefully. "I think this is the longest I've ever seen him still," she said, forcing a small smile.

Pete's arm was broken. Twelve stitches in the back of his head closed the gash. No concussion.

Chloe considered the possibilities. She really didn't have enough information to form any workable theories. Unless.

Chloe shook off the ridiculous. It wasn't possible. Clark Kent would have to be on drugs to be on drugs. She hadn't seen Clark since the study session. He'd acted weird, granted. Then, there was the misfired Lana rendezvous. Again, uh why would something he wanted so badly go so horribly wrong? Nobody risked the wrath of The Fairy Princess.

Chloe made a mental note: stop referring to Lana as The Fairy Princess. Otherwise, she might slip and say it. Wait. Was that a "protect Lana" thought? Where'd that come from? Weirder, weirder. Not a lot of logic there for the seeing.

Clark on drugs? Chloe mulled the possibility as she padded across the room.

"Chloe," Pete's voice was thickened by painkillers.

"Yeah, Pete?"

"Thanks."

Chloe dug deep, and slapped on the "happy." "What're friends for?" she responded, face intolerably cheery.

Pete smiled, squeezing Lana's hand before she pulled away, following Chloe out the door.

In the empty and oh-so-familiar corridor, Chloe turned abruptly. "What're your plans for tonight?"

"Tonight?" Lana ran through the mental list. "None really. What've got in mind?"

"Brain storming session."

"Pete wasn't very helpful," acknowledged Lana.

"At least he remains consistent." Chloe smiled wanly. "And something's up." Smallville was known for bad. Both Chloe and Lana exchanged a glance. Hopefully, things hadn't just gone from bad to worse.

The hospital parking lot was well illuminated. Even without the brilliance of sodium lights, Lex imagined tracking the two would be easy. He watched Lana climb into Chloe's vehicle. Chloe followed, eyes bright, determined, shining in the darkness. Lana too had the posture of the focused, of one on a mission.

Lex hadn't felt the need to play billionaire detective since following Phelan. Now, here he was again, on surveillance duty because something was up. Pete was in the hospital. Clark was missing. And Jonathan Kent was dead.

Lex pulled the Lamborghini onto the road. Maybe the Kent Farm could provide an answer or two. He didn't want to make a pest of himself, but considering Mrs. Kent wasn't answering the phone, he'd take that chance.

Wind rustled, pricking Lex's ears. The normal sounds of the Kansas evening didn't warrant an afterthought, but the environmental silence made the normally unflappable businessman uneasy. No basketball or evening news; no clanking of flatware; no clatter of dinnerware. Strangest of all though was the distinct lack of aroma.

No scents of Kent meals or pies or muffins.

Lex removed a Maglite from the glove box and twisted it on. The beam cut a triangular path as it swooshed around the area.

He didn't see the glass until it cracked beneath his heel.

Lex shone the light as he stooped. Glass and -

Lex touched the grass. Nearly dry blood stuck to two gloved fingers. He wheeled around, shining the light in the direction of the window. The door. Correction. The space where the door should have been.

No Clark. No Martha Kent. Another scene of destruction. Another call to be made.

Lex got a bad feeling about the penthouse key. He swallowed and removed his cell phone, dialing with an unsteady hand.


Gwen called from the bathroom. "The water's getting cold."

"Be there in a minute," Clark answered. He held the unconscious Martha in his arms. The hallway turned into bedroom. Clark dropped his mother on the bed, scanned the vicinity. "Thought so," he said, grinning widely. The alarm code for the panic room would be unnecessary.

Clark swung the bookcase away and forced the vault-heavy door open. He scooped Martha up and deposited her carelessly into the room, plopping her onto a cot. The door closed as Martha came to. She watched helplessly as Clark put a fist through the phone, pulverizing concrete. "Cla -" she screamed, her voice cut off completely by the thud of steel.

Clark wasn't sure if heat vision was more appropriate, but he got more pleasure from mashing the door shut, torturing its steel frame. Martha Kent would be there until he decided otherwise. It had most of the amenities of home. Food, sink, toilet.

Nude, carrying an arm full of candles, Clark entered the bathroom. "Close your eyes." Gwen did so without question. She felt a rush of air a millisecond before Clark slid into the tub. "You missed a spot," he said, taking the sponge in hand.

"Can I open my eyes?"

Clark's tongue flicked out, tenderly sampling nipple for taste and texture. He lingered, kissing Gwen's breast. "Of course," he said, his voice sex-husky.

Gwen peeked and saw a landscape transformed, glowing amber.

Clark handed Gwen the sponge. She took it eagerly and, as she dragged the sponge over Clark's chest, she took note that the boy on the verge of manhood she'd met seemed wholly absent. This man seemed larger somehow.

Maybe it was a trick of the lighting.

Gwen quivered involuntarily.

"Cold?"

"No. Water's still warm. Barely," she teased.

"Then -"

"- It's nothing, Clark."

"Really?" he seemed unconvinced. "You wouldn't lie to me, would you?"

"No." Gwen leaned in, drew Clark's lips into her own and sucked them hard. "I wouldn't."

"Good to know."

Clark stood, reaching for a towel. Gwen followed. Clark toweled first, drying himself with swift strokes of the oversized terry cloth. He padded out of the bathroom. "Dinner?" she asked.

Clark answered from the hallway, his tone vaguely disinterested. "Fix whatever you want. Or order something. Check the PDA on the desk. I'll be back soon."

No, he thought. Preoccupied was a better description of his current mental state.


Clark made the trip home quickly. In the affray, he'd completely forgotten about Martha's car.

He drove the vehicle to Loeb Bridge, then parked. Again, decisions.

Clark rolled down the windows and climbed from the car. When in doubt, go with the simple and the visceral.

Clark checked for oncoming traffic. Coast clear, he hefted the Ford, tossing it over the guardrail.

Martha's transportation disappeared, sinking quickly beneath the water's midnight surface with no more than a quartet of gurgles.

In the distance, headlights expunged darkness. Headlights coming right toward him. Clark turned, attention jerked from the drowning vehicle.

He recognized the car instantly.

Lex peered through his windshield. Was that...? "Clark?" he said softly.

Glimpsing Lex, Clark smiled, then vanished. Or so it seemed. Certainly, there one minute, gone the next. Was Lex hallucinating?

That cinched it.

Immediately, Lex pointed the Lamborghini in the direction of Metropolis.


Armani's Collezioni collection suit fit Clark like nothing he'd worn before. The cashmere coat came close, but even that didn't feel as good as this ensemble did. The burgundy silk shirt beneath the jacket reminded him despite his imperviousness to climate, bullets and fire, he was indeed a creature of sensuous appetites.

Creature? Clark snickered. There was a time when words like "alien," "freak" and "creature" would've bothered him. Now, he stretched out his arms, drew them in, and held the appellations tightly. All a matter of perception really. Was being a "thing" inherently bad?

"Gwen?" Clark called as he inspected himself from another angle.

"Still getting dressed," she responded.

That set Clark's head to "tilt." Although it was hella funny. Honestly, what was with women?

Lacking warning, Clark appeared behind the MetU coed. He paused to savor the view. Victoria's Secret most definitely agreed with her. "Maybe I can help."

She wasn't sure how it happened really, but instantly Gwen was wearing the backless number Clark had chosen earlier. There was a vague sense of being touched by a million fast hands, then, voila. Totally clothed. A little disconcerting, but Gwen would not bring herself to question the latest peculiar sequence of events experienced while in the company of one Clark Kent.

She swallowed hard. "So?" she said. Gwen's voice snapped Clark back to the here and now. Standing behind her, he shifted her to view himself in the mirror as well, grinning broadly. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuuuuuck that dress fit like a second skin.

Goddamn, they made a stunning couple.

Slipping from his grasp, Gwen walked across the dressing room, working her hips like a runway model. She sashayed before him. Suddenly, Clark appeared behind her once more. How was he able...?

Clark's hand drifted to her back and lingered at the small. "Mmm, I've got good taste," he said finally.

"And," Gwen leaned backward as Clark inclined his head, "you taste..." Her tongue edged out, tip flicking the flirty pout of his bottom lip. The job required more sucking. "Mmm, good," she continued, releasing the lip with a pop-smack.

Clark maneuvered to a nearby chair and placed Gwen on his lap. "Clark, people. Party? Here any minute."

"They can wait."

Clark hiked the dress, lifting it above Gwen's hips as she leaned back. Flicking a tongue in her ear, he twisted her panties free, ripping them with a flip of a finger. Gwen looked down. "Those where embroidered Italian -"

"One hundred dollars."

Clark's tongue gently explored Gwen's mouth. The exploration shifted to playtime as tongues engaged, seeking, finding, tempting each other. The lightheartedness was soon replaced by intensity as Clark bussed Gwen rapaciously. He whispered into her ear, "I'll buy you another pair."

Seeking the rush, Gwen writhed on Clark's lap, hips gyrating in a slow, comfortable rhythm. He held her even as the pace quickened. She moaned as Clark dragged pink wetness down her back, matching his hip movements with her own.

Within Clark, an errant thought rose, not interrupting. He could snap her. In two. So, so very easily.

This time, the scream was bone chilling.

Spent, Gwen watched as strands of hair drooped, loosed from the elegant upsweep. Rivulets of perspiration made their way down her face, back and neck.

"Sweet -" Gwen began. Jagged breath caught. "What... What were you thinking about?"

Clark kissed her warmly. "You."


Lana turned from the stove, two mugs firmly in hand as she negotiated the chamomile tea to the table in a trio of steps. Not spilling was a problem, but she always liked a challenge, no matter what its size or significance. "I think I filled these up a little too much." She sat down, barely succeeding in the "no spill" initiative.

"The perfect Lana Lang made an imperfect pour?" Mock astonishment transformed Chloe's face. "Never in my lifetime did I expect to witness such a thing."

Lana giggled, joined in the burgeoning mirthfest by Chloe as giggles morphed into guffaws then transmogrified into full belly laughs.

"Oh," said Lana, clutching her stomach, "I didn't realize. How much I needed that."

"It hasn't been a fun few days, has it?"

"Not by any stretch of the imagination. And as strange as it sounds, I miss Clark."

Chloe hoisted an eyebrow. "Even after the Date from Something More than Hell?"

"Clark. Not the imposter in black sleevelessness."

"Then not a fan of CKOD? Clark Kent on Drugs?"

"I don't care if -" Lana drew back.

Not that Chloe was sure. "I... " Still, it seemed a possibility. "It's something..." Okay Sullivan, how do you put this to the woman who should be your sworn enemy? "Clark hasn't been himself, right?"

"No matter how you twist it. Do you think -"

"- Not starting rumors here." Chloe sipped the tea, inhaling steam. "But what if?"

"Clark's doing -"

"- I can't imagine anything recreational pharmaceutical wise. He's too contained to need it." Lana eyes circled knowingly as she inclined her head.

"Or want it."

"Course, there was the beer..."

"Symptom. Not cause." Lana's eyes widened as something occurred to her. "What about steroids?"

"Steroids?"

"Abuse leads to aggressive behavior. " A guilty pause followed. "After School Special."

"He's definitely been very much me man lately."

Lana blinked, looking away. "Now I feel bad."

"Why?"

She turned to Chloe, her face flushed. "Hello? Bitch queen here. Clark's in trouble, and the only thing I could think about was myself."

Chloe smiled meekly. "Happens to all of us. Although it sounds like we have a new winner in the 'Myopic Self Involvement' Derby."

"I want to thank all the people who made this award possible. Namely, me."

"We have snark."

"And snark is good." Lana raised her mug high. Chloe mirrored the gesture. The pair shared a glance over fresh giggles and lukewarm tea.


A DJ spun wax on turntables, seamlessly blending everything from Talking Heads to Nelly to Fatboy Slim. Bass rumbled, thundering rhythm as call, inviting dance as response.

Bouncing his ass, Clark navigated a sea of bodies, stopping only to bum a cigarette from a tiny blonde. He took a slow pull, released the smoke provocatively, returned the butt and kissed her.

"Clark?" The teenager turned, wiping smudged red lipstick from his mouth.

"Lex! Fuck! I didn't - Good to see you! You got the message?"

"What message, Clark?"

Clark's eyes twinkled. "The one I left on your voice mail."

Lex removed his cell and checked. "Hmm, imagine that. No messages."

"Must've called the house then." Lex bit his lip just barely, an impatient gesture. The lie served as more proof something was very wrong in Kentworld.

"Gwen!" Clark tossed his head slightly. Immediately, Gwen made her way through the crowd, appearing quickly by Clark's side.

"Refill?"

"Um-hmm." Clark kissed her ravenously. "Incentive."

Lex watched as the dark haired woman finessed her way through the rout. "Clark, what's going on?"

"It's a party, Lex."

"Good to know my eyes aren't deceiving me. Who're these people?"

"Friends of yours." Not from the look on Lex's face. "Well, names we got out of the Palm in the study."

"'We'?"

Clark tossed his head. "Gwen dialed and -"

Lex vetted Clark. "Are you...drinking?"

Clark smirked. "Scotch."

"You're underage."

"So what're you gonna do? Arrest me? Or is this a morality police offense?"

"Are you drunk?"

"Pfft."

"High?"

"Lex, you know me. Do I do drugs?"

"To my knowledge - no. But there's clearly a lot I don't know about you."

"Not so much."

"To quote badly: 'I have no idea what you're capable of'."

Clark grinned broadly and bobbed his head as much in time with the music as in appreciation. "Very smooth." Gwen reappeared, two highball glasses in hand. She raised her own in a toast. The dulcet tones of exceptional glassware were barely audible as both glasses met. Clark emptied the scotch, eying the drained crystal wistfully. "Much like the Glen Livet."

"Another?"

"Later," he said, stroking the woman's face softly. "Lex, Gwen, Gwen, Lex. You go mingle," he said, scooting her off. He turned to Lex. "We should talk. Aw, shit!" Clark's head whipped around. He watched as people filled the proxy dance floor. "That's my jam!"

The eyebrow moved as Lex considered.

Clark tugged at Lex, then worked his way to the center of the floor. More women and men quickly followed him.

Watching from the sidelines, Lex never expected what ensued.

If ever he were to have the pleasure of seeing Clark dance, Lex had envisioned something a little more "Joe Boxer"-ish. Instead, he found himself witness to what had to be a miracle, unquestionably performed by a demented saint.

Clark swiveled his hips, moving as though he were performing an upright, well, lap dance, Gwen clutched tightly, pressed wholly into him, insuring the utter fusion of whirling, thrusting pelvises. Clark guided her easily, as though they were a single organism, attached at the balls.

The only white man Lex'd ever seen dance like that was Patrick Swayze. Unless you counted some of the club kids from those days, and frankly, those days were a little too blurry for Lex's memory to lock onto.

Oh, and Clark made Patrick look like an amateur.

Had the situation not been so ominous, Lex might've been amused. He could've taken pleasure in the near parade as an Amazonian redhead joined Clark from behind and a Whitneyesque man pressed himself into said redhead.

Then, there was the woman who decided Gwen's ass was in need of company. No one seemed to object, the beats driving shouts and squeals, grunts and moans. Sweat dripped from some participants, but Clark remained fantastically dry, unimpacted by what appeared to be sheer sensual exertion.

Given something more than an inopportune opportunity (ah, the curse of the curious and the goal driven), Lex would've been more than willing to participate. Life had a way of depositing such "opportunities" on one's doorstep, then pointing them in the direction of someone else.

Sigh. You snooze, you lose. You choose, you lose.

Lex waded into the throng, cognizant of the energy, the seductive pull of abandon and frenzy.

Kinetic joy. He'd traveled the road previously, drug enhanced and desiring escape. Now, he wanted not release and denial, but acceptance. Acceptance meant behaving like a responsible adult, something, in spite of being only twenty-two, he'd grown into.

Acceptance meant loosing the hunger.

Acceptance meant doing The Right Thing.

Was there only one right thing?

There was the feel good thing that felt right. Then, there was the moral high road on which he found himself absolutely by choice.

Clark motioned to Lex.

Lex begged off and continued to watch from a very safe distance. He hoped Clark would come to him.

Clark didn't.

The lack of movement on his friend's part forced Lex to make a move. Contained. Controlled. Focused, in spite of proximity, opportunity (inopportune, inopportune, inopportune) and desire.

Walking slowly, Lex joined Clark on the dance floor. He leaned forward and spoke softly into Clark's ear, "You're right. We really should talk."

"Ok," Clark responded unhurriedly. "Pick a quiet spot." There was a beat before he added, "I'll find you."

The Amazon swept Clark into her arms, pulling him into a tongue bath. Clark didn't resist. He watched Lex with one eye as the bald man took his leave.


Lex entered the room, eyes adjusting readily to its charcoal milieu. He fingered the light switch and immediately discerned the bookcase was no longer flush against the wall. Propelled by the intrigue of it, the incongruity of someone finding and apparently accessing the panic room, Lex stepped forward.

The inspection revealed something was indeed amiss. Lex stretched out a hand, reaching for the edge of the bookcase. In spite of being mildly ajar, it wouldn't budge. He walked briskly to the alarm and punched in the code. Maybe the hydraulics would help.

The code failed utterly.

Lex backtracked, scanning the room for an appropriate lever. Until

The room went dark.

Lex felt his breath catch. He hesitated, though shifting the instant he felt a warm hand upon his neck, fingers brushing teasingly just below his ear. "Clark?" The question came via whisper.

He hadn't time to blink when dimmed lights rose, revealing Clark sitting flirtatiously on the bed's edge, and a good six feet away. "If you don't wanna come to the party -"

"- you felt obligated to bring the party to me." Lex averted the hungry gaze before him.

"Like I really had a choice."

"There're always choices, Clark. Some are bad, some are good, and some remain questionable in spite of the passage of time."

"Sounds like a conundrum."

"Wrapped in an enigma."

"Come. Sit."

"Given the circumstances, I don't think that's advisable."

Clark leaned forward. "Then," he said, pressing his lips together and sucking them inward. Their moistness glistened as he continued, "What do you advise?"

"Right now? Frankly, I'm not sure." Lex took a step in Clark's direction.

Clark placed his hands patiently on his lap. It was Lex's first good look at the ring. "Nice piece of jewelry." The ring provided Lex's cue to sit. A perfectly timed decision given that Clark was considering forcing him down on the bed. "Not bad for high school adornment."

"What'd you mean?" Clark's tone was defensive. "I think it's great!"

"Ruby's fake though." Gently, Lex took Clark's hand, pulling it closer to get a better look at the ring. "Looks like a subpar piece of glass - or even cut meteor fragment."

"You can tell?"

"Just by looking. If you want to know something, sometimes, all one need do is open his eyes."

A long pause followed.

Clark rose, sighing audibly. Apparently, Lex didn't want to play. Masking his disappointment, Clark shifted. There would be other opportunities. He would make sure of that.

"Well, guess I should get back to the party."

Lex's fingers skimmed the small lead box in his jacket pocket. "Yes. Sounds like a good idea."

Clark's lips twisted into a half smile. "You don't know what you're missing."

"I'm sure," Lex temporized as he weighed his options.

Clark rose, traversing the room in quick strides.

In the hallway, a man stepped in front of the farm boy, blocking him bodily. He was taller than Clark, broader too. "Got a minute?" It wasn't really a question. "The redhead."

Clark greeted the bulky man's gaze with bemusement.

"My girl."

Clark stifled a chuckle. "You sure about that?" Where'd Lex meet this guy anyway? Or did the redhead have really fucked tastes in companions? Pity date maybe?

Shaking his head, Clark sidestepped, heading back in the direction of the living room.

"Hey, I'm not done -" The bulky man grabbed Clark's jacket, balling the fabric in one hand.

"Um, yeah you are." Clark plucked the hand from his shoulder, twisting it away. The crack was audible. "I think that's a break," he offered tonelessly.

The bulky man yelped and fell to his knees.

Inside the bedroom, Lex's train of thought hit a sharp curve and derailed. Whipping his head, he stood hurriedly and bolted into the hallway. He watched Clark ambling away and then saw bulky man down, tears in his eyes.

Lex followed Clark into the living room. The bulky man brushed past him, face flushed, teeth bared, heading right for Clark who seemed to anticipate the would-be ambush and turned quickly on his heels. Clark moved only a fraction of an inch, just enough to send the bulky man careening into the sliding glass doors of the balcony.

The doors buckled, cracking as the bulky man went down.

Clark opened the doors, practically jerking them from the frame. He grabbed the bulky man, hauling him to his feet by the front of his sweater as he stepped onto the patio.

Clark continued to heft the bulky man above the patio floor. "You don't know me," Clark began as though he were having a polite conversation over scones and tea. He walked, moving closer to the patio's edge, holding close to two hundred and sixty pounds of flaccid maleness as he spoke.

Beyond Clark, in the penthouse, nothing changed. No masks of fear, no rush to view. The dancers danced, the drinkers drank, the fuckers fucked, an unconcerned, disinterested self-involved amalgam clad in pretty, pretty party things.

The redhead seemed vaguely curious as did the tiny blonde and the man who could have been Whitney had Whitney not been in the Marines.

Clark regarded the man's dangling feet, feet so small for a man so big. "You don't know somebody, you step up, you take a chance. My guess is you're used to a certain outcome." The man winced as Clark lifted him high overhead and over the patio's edge. "You might want to rethink a few things."

With that, Clark dropped him, stepping from the patio

before the scream

before Lex arrived

barely latching onto the bulky man's wrists

the man groped desperately with one good hand

grasping for the patio's edge.

He continued screaming.

Pain could do that.

Reduce even the strongest to whimpers and tears.

If Lex let go

the man

The man would die.

If Lex held on

Holding on seemed an impossibility.

Impossibility was only possibility unrealized.

Or so Lex convinced himself.

If Lex let go

The man scrambled

feet slipping

goddamned glazed pebble surface

yielding no traction.

Lex grasped his jacket

pulling

straining

hauling up

hauling over

until

The two fell to the patio floor, spent, surprised, elated

panting

The man saved from

certain

death.

"Shit." The word escaped through clenched teeth sans immediate awareness, the petite expulsion of air compelling Lex's return to the present.

Kentworld - twister fucked.

Lex retrieved his cell. "Toby. Yeah. The penthouse."


In a quiet corner, beyond the party's remnant din, Toby tended the break as Lex spoke. "I want you to forget tonight ever happened." He removed his wallet, handing the man a thick stack of bills as he folded them crisply. "If I find your memory engaged," Lex continued, "what you experienced tonight will seem like a cordial Sunday outing by comparison. I am not someone you want to piss off. Do we have an understanding?"

The man nodded and left hastily. Toby glanced Lex's way. "Get you something?"

Lex inhaled deeply, counted to ten, and exhaled. "What would you suggest?"

"Valium, maybe Xanax."

Exasperation, good natured and welcomed, tainted Lex's features. "Those days -"

"Gone. Then. Now. Blah, blah, blah." Toby seemed unconvinced in spite of Lex's multiple lectures on the subject.

The good natured expression dissolved. "I don't need anything," stated Lex emphatically.

"Are you positive?" Toby eyed Lex curiously. "From what I've seen, it's been quite an evening. Not up to your typical -

"Old. As in ancient. As in 'history' -"

"standards though."

"Not my party."

Toby cocked his head. "That explains it."

Lex proffered a large wad of cash to the patch man. Toby accepted the money, fanned the bills, then folded them, tucking then into an inside jacket pocket. "I could stick around. You know, in case things take a turn."

"If things take a turn," Lex said dolefully, "your services will be the least of my worries."

Toby packed his medical supplies, zipped the bag, adjusted his coat and headed out into the night.

Lex sat, pensive. So many questions and not an answer to be had.

Normally, a vibrating cell phone would not have startled him. But this evening, Lex found his focus violently disrupted by no more than a gentle purr. Even given the hour, a call would not be considered unusual. Post-business day interruptions were to be expected when one ran a corporation.

The number seemed vaguely familiar. "Chloe?" Lex spoke in hushed tones, not that anyone was listening.

"Lex?" The teen's voice bubbled from the other end. Curiouser and curiouser. Was that Laurence Fishburne in the background? "After this, there is no turning back."

"I wasn't sure this was the right number," she continued.

"Understandable." Lex's voice rose to compensate as extremely loud machine tones filtered through the cell. "It's not exactly available. You realize I can barely hear you."

"Home theatre." The noise on Chloe's end diminished. "Sorry. The Matrix beckoned and I felt obligated to answer the call of Keanu."

"Um," said Lex.

"There is a reason we interrupted our scheduled programming though." There was a long pause. "We were wondering -"

"'We'?"

"Lana and I."

Lana and Chloe - together? And Chloe sounding happy about it? Ok, if Clark's behavior represented the first sign of the apocalypse, this surely had to be the second. The world was clearly coming to an end without the requisite Horsemen. "To what do I owe the pleasure of the call?

"Mondo mega apologies for the extreme hour."

"Not an issue. The how's of course -"

"Creativity knows no impediments."

"Clearly." Number appropriated from Gabe's Rolodex maybe? With a daughter like Chloe, Gabe wouldn't feel the need to be discrete. If she wanted to find out something badly enough, she generally did. Regardless of the mystery's depths.

"We were wondering." Another long pause, immediately followed by a rustling. Enough time for Lex to switch the phone to his other ear.

"Have you seen Clark?" asked Lana.

Hmm. Direct - and tricky to negotiate, but not impossible. "Recently? No." Actually, Clark went missing right after the balcony incident. More rustling. No doubt another hand-off.

"If you see him, could you let us know?"

"Sure Chloe. You sound concerned."

"No. Not - we just...haven't seen him lately."

"That's peculiar."

"That's Clark," said Chloe, feigning a light tone.

Lex chose his words carefully. "Chloe, if Clark's in some kind of trouble, as a friend, I will do everything in my power to help him."

"Thanks Lex."

"That means a lot," said Lana.

Lex disconnected the call and contemplated reinitiating the lever quest.


Inside the large second floor guest room, music pulsed.

Young velvet porcelain boy
*Devour me when you're with me*
Blue wish window seas
Speak delicious fires
*I'm your candy perfume girl*
Your candy perfume girl

The redhead stood on Clark's right, brushed hair away from his ear. A flick of the tongue, contact with an ear lobe. The tongue drew the C-shape, edging toward inner darkness.

Moist warm desire
Fly to me
Candy perfume girl
Your candy perfume girl
*I'm your candy perfume girl*

The blonde stood on Clark's left, took his hand in her own. She looked into his eyes, alight and green with pleasure and desire. She caressed his fingers, stroked them delicately, a single digit (Clark's index finger), slipped into her mouth, gliding past teeth, finding tongue and the moist, soft warmth of it.

Too good. Too good for just one. A second finger was recruited into the wetness, the blonde sucking them like a lollipop.

Candy
Candy
Rush me ghost you see
Every center my home
Fever steam girl

Gwen took three quick strides. Clark used his free hand to pull her to him. He clutched her tightly, holding her against him, so close, close enough to feel the unrepentant hardness of him. His lips brushed butterfly-light against hers. He planted a baby kiss at the corner of her mouth, lingering there, lingering, his breath warm and intoxicating against the moistness. Intoxicating.

Throb the oceans
Your candy perfume girl
your candy perfume girl
your candy perfume girl
Your Candy perfume girl
Candy perfume girl

Gwen pressed her mouth into his, grabbing Clark's hair momentarily displacing the redhead as she pressed hard then soft, her tongue on his palate, dancing, hovering, tempting the contours of his mouth.

Did I lie to you?
candy perfume girl
Did I lie to you?
Magic poison
*You're a candy perfume boy*
a candy perfume boy
*You're a candy perfume boy*
*You're a candy perfume boy*
Candy perfume girl
The sacred nerve is
Magic poison

She stepped back, unbuttoning his shirt, dragging fingertips along the fine muscled surface of his chest.

Clark helped with the shirt, ripping it free of the remaining buttons. He drew Gwen close again, his tongue licking the length of her neck, stalling behind her earlobe. His tongue u-turned, lips suctioning the side of her throat. Gwen's eyes closed as she felt the quaking inside building from so simple an act. Her breathing quickened.

*It's candy*
*It's candy*

The Whitney look-alike stood behind Clark, awaiting his opportunity. Gwen undid Clark's belt buckle, sliding pants and boxers from hips, revealing everything, a body magnificent, pants gone in a kick.

Clone Whitney stooped, taking Clark's ass in hand, his tongue tickling the hole. In front, Gwen lowered herself and licked the length of Clark's shaft as the blonde and redhead worked tonguing opposite sides lightly from pit to hip.

*I'm your candy perfume girl*
*I'm your candy perfume girl*
boy
girl
boy
girl
boy
Candy

Clark's eyes rolled back. A lot of stimulation.

Heaven.


Minimalist dcor didn't afford many MacGyverish opportunities. That, combined with the damned tidiness of his household staff, meant Lex found nothing even remotely appropriate handy. However, the staff was not to blame. Lex's insistence on "a place for everything and everything in its place" meant Spartan accoutrements.

It occurred to him a search of the cleaning closet might bear fruit. There, Lex came across a single, long handled mop.

Lex unscrewed the pole from the mop's roped bottom and went back into the bedroom.

Suddenly, he felt very stupid. Lex and stupid didn't fit. How long had it taken to come up with the idea to search the closet? Just one more thing to add to the mounting scenario of what was wrong. Perhaps the third sign of the apocalypse? Again, he felt the involuntary movement of an eyebrow. This was most assuredly not the moment for involuntary responses.

Lex ran through the mental list. He was ready for Clark, ready to do whatever it took, knowing what it would take, having an idea of those things of which Clark was capable. He was able.

But was he willing?

The word "willing" recycled itself multiply as Lex wedged the pole between the bookcase and the wall. He pried.

"Lex?" Clark's voice rose from behind him.

Lex didn't turn. He'd have to move quickly.

"Don't you know curiosity killed the cat?"

Lex loosed the pole with one hand and reached for his pocket. "But satisfaction brought him back. If we're going to speak in platitudes."

"What've you got there?" Clark's hand was suddenly atop his friend's, his grip tightening. Lex fought the pain, pain so expansive it shot through his body and threatened to beget tears. Was Clark actually breaking the bones in his hand?

Lex couldn't maintain his grip on the box. His damaged hand failed him.

Just as he'd failed Clark.

Events, rapid fire, aggressively tailed the failure.

A strong hand on his shirt

jerking him from the floor

slamming him back first into the wall

Force so brutal, a nearby painting fell

crashing to the ground.

Lex felt the concrete beneath the drywall, solid beyond his flesh.

One hand

lifted Lex higher.

Clutching his friend, Clark stooped, unoccupied fingers gathering the box. He tossed it easily onto the bed.

Lex gritted his teeth, fighting through white-hot agony. "Why don't you open it?"

Though he was dressed, Clark's hair hung just showered wet. He smelled of Lex's soap. "Don't need to. Now, since you were so curious." Clark flicked a finger. The bookcase swung from the wall easily.

Dragging Lex, Clark pulled the panic room door open.

Lex was in no way prepared. "Mrs. Kent?"

The words slipped free, representing the extent of the discourse before he was shoved inside, hard enough to land sprawled onto the floor. Unreadable, Lex rolled over, looking up at Clark as Martha Kent placed a gentle hand on the bald man's shoulder. She regarded the impersonator in her son's skin.

Clark grinned, not a sunny adolescent smile, but a display full of adult knowledge and superiority. He was winning. He might never convince the woman, but Lex might be swayed.

Given time and proper motivation.

Clark sealed the door again. The food supply would not last as long now. He imagined Lex, ever gracious, would do the right thing.

Besides, knowing Lex... He could almost hear the mellifluous tones: "Clark, a man must prepare contingencies.

Chortling, Clark shut the bookshelf again. This go 'round, he made sure it was properly aligned.


It turned out the Whitney clone, Evan, was not only amazing in bed, but also possessed certain worldly skills. Needless to say it would have been easy - beyond easy actually - for Clark to steal a car, but there was something about Evan's appearance with the Suburban that warmed the cockles of Clark's heart.

So much like an offering.

Clark relished the very thought of it. Evan wanted to prove himself worthy and had succeeded admirably. The five of them piled into the black vehicle to make the three-hour trip to Smallville to erase the life that had been.

Evan drove as Gwen and Clark fucked. The redhead and blonde were jealous, but Clark explained very patiently that she had been his Number One, the first member of The Circle. As such, she was entitled to certain perks.

When the group arrived at the farm, Clark instructed Evan to park on the side of Route 90. Taking Gwen by the hand, Clark led her from the vehicle, down the dusty path that rose to the house. Absently, he noted the doors and window had been repaired as they continued to the storm cellar.

Clark motioned for Gwen to wait. He descended the stairs.

Standing on the dirt floor below, Clark regarded the tarp. He plunged his hand into the ground, displacing chunks of earth. A hole seemed to appear. A hole into which he thrust the ship.

Clark replaced the dirt quickly, patting the earth flat. He rejoined Gwen before she even noticed he'd been gone.

This time, Gwen extended her hand. Clark had informed her of his plan. She led him back to the farmhouse.

Transfixed, Clark paused in the yard, in front of the only home he'd ever known. He stared intently, doubt (was there ever any?) wholly obliterated. A smile claimed his lips as Gwen slipped an arm around his waist and nuzzled into him.

Clark's irises glowed amber. He set the house on fire section-by-section.

Then, Clark yowled. A full-out, gut-born summons of delight and freedom. He lifted Gwen high, lowering her slowly until their lips met - the kiss sloppy, territorial, reckless. Her neck would be bruised tomorrow.

Clark placed Gwen on the ground and took one last look at the house, now engulfed in flames. He hadn't forgotten about Pete. He imagined he might have Chloe and even Lana to deal with as well. Not to mention Lex and Martha. A resourceful bunch, all of them, to be sure. Clark realized he actually looked forward to the day they met again. Particularly Lex. They still had a few "unresolved issues".

Clark laughed and ran, proffering his hand as Gwen reached. She saw him disappear from in front of her, and suddenly she was floating. Only when they reached the Suburban did she realize Clark'd been carrying her.

"Where next?" asked Evan after Clark's face poked abruptly through the driver's side window.

"The dam."


Clark stood at the rail at the edge of the dam. So long afraid, so long concerned about what people thought, how they would feel if only they knew.

Now, he didn't care. He could do what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted - and who could stop him?

He would be loved - or feared. It didn't matter.

No longer afraid. No longer afraid of anyone or anything.

He snickered. Why? Why had he held back, clutched the fear so long?

Right. Jonathan Kent. Martha, though to a lesser extent.

Now, he was free.

Clark climbed atop the rail and balanced, stretching out his arms.

He felt free enough to fly.

Clark turned to the first members of The Circle and stepped from the rail, feeling the tug of gravity before refusing it.

He appeared suspended after the initial drop, then drifted slowly upward, in an instant becoming something other than what he'd been.

No longer a boy.

No longer bound by the pretense of "normal."

He accepted the inevitable as he swiveled, unfettered by his own weight, basking in looks that ran the gambit from astonishment to mad props.

Behind him, the sun bestowed kisses, rimming his hair and body in golden light.

It felt so good.

Clark embraced his deviance, determining he would offer one small concession to the humans. His new moniker would still openly identify him as one of them.

But Clark Kent, dear, sweet, stupid Clark, was dead.

He thought of Lana's query, posited that school day a lifetime ago.

The alien smiled.

Long live Superman.

~fin~
64



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