Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Chapter 10: Outcasts

"Clark's not..." Lex's protest died on his lips as he remembered his second night in Smallville. That night, finding Clark bound to a post like a scarecrow, stripped down to his boxers, with a red letter S spray-painted on his chest by the football team had been his first warning that the small-town’s idyllic, homespun charm might be hiding some dangerous secrets.

He had wanted to get Clark to the hospital then, but having been the recipient of numerous cruel pranks by classmates, Lex well-understood why Clark grabbed his clothes and quickly left. After one casual mention later on to prod Clark into acting on his feelings for Lana, he never discussed that night again to spare his friend’s feelings.

Nodding, mostly to himself, but also acknowledging Jonathon's point, Lex answered thoughtfully, "I suppose that I have become so accustomed to seeing him with Chloe, Lana, and Pete...it makes easier to forget something like homecoming."

From Jonathon’s uncomfortable shifting, Lex realized that he had confirmed something Jonathon had suspected, but had never really known for certain. “He didn’t tell you?”

"No, Lex, Clark doesn't tell us everything." pausing to
massage the muscles at the back of his neck, Jonathon took a long, deep breath, forcing himself to stay composed as he plunged in, "In fact, that’s why I need to ask for your help. Dr. Mead said that in addition to anxiety attacks, Clark is suffering from exhaustion and dehydration as if he hasn't slept or drank anything in days -- and probably hasn't eaten much in that time either by the looks of it."

Pausing to work his jaw, Jonathon tried to ease the tension headache he felt coming on. ‘I know I have to do this,’ he thought to himself, Clark is starting to show signs of everything that Jor-el said he might. But, despite his growing acceptance of the medical dangers Jor-el had described, Jonathon's long habit of secrecy regarding all things Clark was at war with what he was about to do -- and the pounding headache only mirrored that battle.

Rubbing his temples, to ease the pressure, Jonathon continued. "Lex, He's making himself sick over something that he is afraid to discuss with us for some reason. I don't know why he feels he can’t talk with us, but he obviously can’t. If he doesn’t feel that he can open up with us, I don’t know if there is anyone he will share his confidences with; but, if I’m right about what I just saw in his eyes- you may be the only one who has a chance."

Stunned and touched by Jonathon's trust, Lex stared at his hands until he was certain that his expression would only show the guarded concern he felt for Clark, instead of the triumph he felt at finally winning Jonathon's trust.

Attempting to appear as if he weren't at all eager to pry into Clark's business, with forced hesitation, Lex slowly answered, "I can arrange my schedule to be available whenever Clark feels ready to talk and I can stop by the farm as much as possible to help keep his spirits up. But," Lex shrugged as if not sanguine about his chance of success.

"No, Lex, I don't know if that would be enough either. Martha and I know you must have more than enough work on your hands as it is, but is there anyway that Clark could stay with you when they release him from the hospital? Dr. Mead has ordered bed rest for several weeks at least. Frankly, we're both afraid that if he comes home with us, knowing how much there is to do, he won’t be able to rest."

Continuing to stare at his hands until he felt that he had maintained the scene long enough to leave the right impression, Lex slowly cast his eyes up to meet Jonathon’s as he continued, “Clark is certainly welcome to stay with me until he recovers, but it should be his decisi… Mr. Kent!”

As his eyes moved upward, Lex’s glance immediately caught the small drop of blood welling up at the corner of Jonathon’s lip – forming a thin dark rivulet that dropped into widening oxblood spots on his collar.

“What?” Following the direction of Lex’s gaze, Jonathon carefully wiped the side of his mouth – smearing blood across his fingertips. Jonathon suppressed a grin as he stared at his fingers. It’s working. Picking his words carefully to match the revelation that he and Martha had carefully planned during the drive to the hospital, Jonathon continued, “Don’t worry, Lex. I wasn’t sure if the meteor would be big enough to show you this, but I hoped it would be.”

It was close enough to the truth that Lex could tell Jonathon meant what he said, but Lex could not pin down what Jonathon meant when he said it.

“You hoped?”

From the usually blunt-speaking Kent, such an obscure statement riveted Lex’s attention as nothing else might have as he admitted, “I don’t understand.”

“No, Lex, I don’t expect you to; but, to help Clark, you need to know something that I’m not certain he’s able to admit yet – even to you.” Jonathon paused catching Lex’s glance, “I’m sorry if this stirs up painful memories; but, how much do you remember of the day of the meteor shower?”

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