Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Treatment

Clexfest: 12th Wave at www.kardasi.com

Rating: PG 13, Clex, Established Relationship, Angst, AU, Near futurefic, Multiple POV’s

Challenge: Breaking the Habit: Linkin Park

Notes: Crossovers: Thank you to my gracious and giving Betas Psychi and Hrd02ca. After their thorough review, I can safely say that any errors, awkwardness, or angst in this piece belong completely to me. Crossovers: Bruce Wayne, Willow (BTVS), Abby Bartlett (West Wing). This is a sequel to both DT’s at CLFF 11th Wave and Safe Here in My Room.

Summary: When duty becomes addictive and Clark can’t break the habit alone, Lex calls on friends.

Treatment

After numerous heated discussions about the severity of Clark’s condition, Lex, Willow, Abby, and Bruce decided that an intervention was in order. It was time to force a discussion that Clark had studiously avoided throughout all of his past ‘vacations’: his motivation for continuing to be Superman.

No one in the room had expected Clark to open up easily; it was against the conditioning he had received from childhood; but after three hours, they had progressed little further than an acknowledgement that Clark still felt guilty about the meteor mutants. Frustrated and drained, Lex finally called for a breather and stalked over to the bar.

***

Filling his tumbler with Johnny Walker Blue, Lex poured it over his lips more than he sipped it. He almost missed the memory of a time when it felt like salt being poured over an open wound…salt at least was drawing; but the whisky could no longer draw out the pain and poison of other memories that threatened to consume him. Memories—of Clark: lifting him, standing over him, pulling him out of a car, out of the water, out of rubble, cutting him down, even knocking him out for his own good (because Clark had finally admitted to the stunning number of times that he had used that ploy). Images, once pleasant, now flitted through his thoughts as he tried to calculate the number of times Clark had saved him- physically and mentally.

But, over the course of time, they discovered that each fondly-remembered rescue had been a poison of its own, seeping slowly into Clark’s system under the camouflage of his heroism, and addicting him to the chemicals that his alien brain produced in response to emergencies. By the time they had made that discovery, Clark was as addicted as any back-alley junkie could be – and playing Superman was his drug of choice.

***

With a mumbled apology, Clark retreated to his room: “I’m afraid it’s going to be a couple of minutes before I’ll be up to picking me apart again.”

***

Sympathetically, Bruce watched as Lex winced at Clark’s comment before the boy retreated. Despite the charged situation, Bruce could only focus on Lex’s angry retort earlier in the week- asking Bruce whether he thought he could replace Lex in Clark’s life. Lex honestly believed that Clark interested him. The thought was amusing—almost ludicrous—but still amusing.

Admittedly, Clark shared several similarities with his former partner and lover, Nightwing–namely being that they were well-built, dark-haired men with super-hero complexes. But, like Nightwing, Clark was oh so righteous and idealistic, full of optimism, and driven by his belief that humanity was inherently worthwhile. In short, Clark was young in a way that had nothing to do with age, too young to be of interest to Bruce, particularly after his relationship with Nightwing had ended so badly.

No. Of the pair, Lex, Bruce’s oldest friend outside of Alfred, his guardian-cum-butler, was the one that Bruce found intriguing. Sophisticated, charming, and bruised, like a baroque masterpiece, Lex had enough shadows, body, and texture to keep Bruce occupied for years. And while Bruce had no specific intention to break up the lovers, he certainly had motivation and vested interests in doing so. First, he wanted Lex, who was becoming increasingly controlled by Clark through his addiction. And then he wanted to keep Superman around. While Bruce genuinely felt nothing for the spandex-clad hero, not the slightest trace of attraction or even friendship, he recognized that he needed Superman to continue. Despite his enduring hunger for vengeance, Bruce didn’t want to be the one that battles always chose.

***

By the time that Clark reached his room, Superman had emerged and was trying to coax the young man into cooperating with his treatment.

“Clark, you know as well as I do that this is necessary. You have to come to terms with your compulsion to … be me.” Superman stared at Clark in the mirror as he stumbled slightly over his words. “You have to understand what’s at stake here. I know that there is more to our work than just your addiction,” he answered the hurt look in Clark’s eyes, “you are proud of what we’ve done, and so am I. But…” Superman trailed off as he tried to find the right words, but Kal El was quick to fill the space.

“Go ahead and tell him.” Kal El grinned, always enjoying the chance to prod the stiff and proper hero. “Old Iron pants here, doesn’t believe in these ‘people’ you think so much of; he doesn’t know what’s worth fighting for. And he’s fairly certain that, even if you wrote out a list of things worth fighting for, most of the humans he’s saved over the years wouldn’t be anywhere on it… Not if you were being honest at least, but you don’t ‘do’ honest very well—do you?”

The icy grimace that answered Kal El was expected, but Superman’s equally chilling voice surprised Kal El, when he answered, “I don’t know why you feel that you have to instigate. Your life would be much simpler- wouldn’t it- if it was just you and Clark again—without me to rein you in when he cannot?”

“Yeah, sure, of course! That’s what matters. Just getting rid of you so I can be free again. Because, he’s not going to hold me in. He can’t. He never could. It always took someone else. First, Jor El and Dad, then Dr. Swan’s chick and Mom. He doesn’t have it in him.” Kal El glared at Clark, daring him to answer.

“Don’t say that.” Superman chastised him, “You know that’s not true. I came from him, and I can control you – easily. So can he. Stop saying things you don’t mean. You can’t hide anything from us. Remember?”

Kal El laughed bitterly, “Is that what you think? That the two of you know everything that I know?”

Although it was never discussed, Kal El’s personality had, by virtue of a kryptonian birth, actually preceded Clark’s personality, who developed close to the time that Clark finally learned to speak English. But it had never occurred to either Clark or Superman that Kal El knew something they didn’t. And, Kal El’s rapid retreat into stony silence told them that, at least today, they wouldn’t find out what Kal El knew… if anything.

Superman shot Kal El a resigned glance, noticing in the mirror that the Kryptonian’s expression had returned to his ‘I’m-intentionally-ignoring-you’ mask. Well, one problem at a time should be enough anyway.

“Clark. I know that how you were raised has made it difficult for you to share your feelings, but these are your friends...” Superman trailed off as he recognized that Clark wasn’t convinced. He was listening; Clark always listened, but Superman wasn’t being persuasive enough.

Swallowing his pride with a grudging nod to Kal El, Superman made a final appeal, “He’s right: you keep us grounded. You make humanity important to us, and if you weren’t around… well… the outcome would not be nearly as good for the world. Tell your friends what they want to know, and they can figure out how to help you

“Tell them what they want? How can I?” Clark demanded in a voice cracking with frustration. “I don’t know how I got this way. So, how can I explain it to them?”

Superman stared in shock at Clark, realizing that the young man honestly didn’t understand why he had chosen to become Superman. Shaking his head, Superman stalked over to the bed, carefully slid onto his back, and threw his arm across his eyes. Why was it always easier trying to battle the troubles of the world than it was to come to terms with his own conscience?

***
In her own room, Willow was trying to come to terms with her own inner demons and addictions as well. Clutching her hands, she suppressed the urge to twitch a little spell into place. Latin tingled at the lips bitten between her teeth as she tried to catch her breath, again. It always hurt so much more to keep control when she watched Clark battle his addictions. Knowing that she could simply lift the addiction from his cells, erasing it as though it had never been; that she knew the exact spell she could use, and that she had practiced the hand movements until they came without effort—only made the temptation to do so more painful to deny.

It would have been so easy, and well within her advanced powers- but the conclave had denied her request to perform the spell. She understood, in theory, why they had refused. To perform the spell, she would have to take a portion of Clark’s energy into her – cleansing it internally as though she were some type of cosmic filter – before she returned it to him. But, the conclave were the ones who would be responsible for containing her if she ever slipped again, and they were afraid that ‘sampling’ Clark’s alien energies could cause her to relapse into her addiction with a more terrible force than anytime before.

So, she really didn’t have any options. Magic-stripping rituals by their very nature were thorough and cruelly intrusive to ensure that the magic user had no obscure cache of spells memorized or talents otherwise hidden in her mind. If she wanted to retain her magic, and possibly her sanity then she had to abide by the conclave’s dictates. But, every time she watched him suffer through severe fevers and now bouts of the DT’s, it hurt more and more, because she knew she clutched his cure in her hands.

***

Abby, alone, remained in the living room. The quiet that saturated the penthouse after their tense session was in no way peaceful, but Abby was surprised to realize that she found it more comfortable than being in the young heroes’ presence. Sometime during the evening, she had discovered just how dysfunctional this group of young people was. Watching them try to guide and counsel Clark, she had realized that although he was an alien, Clark was hardly unique among them for his pain and alienation. It radiated off of them in waves- uniquely manifesting in each but ever-present nonetheless.

It was a cruel paradox that the people, whom her husband called on to protect the country from the greatest threats it could face, were ultimately wounded children torn between what they believed to be their duty and their desire to never fight again.

Gritting her jaw as she thought of her own children, Abby gave into her natural instincts and maternal feelings as she swore to herself that, tonight, she was going to do something to help bring it to an end. She dedicated herself to first helping Clark find his way, just as she had helped Leo so many years before, and then perhaps Lex or Bruce. She was having trouble deciding which was the more injured, but what mattered was that this was the starting point. This was how their pain and loneliness would end.

“This is how it ends.” She thought to herself as she stood to call them back in from their brief respite, “I’m breaking Clark’s habit, tonight.”

***
LINKIN PARK LYRICS

"Breaking The Habit"

Memories consume
Like opening the wound
I'm picking me apart again
You all assume
I'm safe here in my room
Unless I try to start again

[Bridge:]
I don't want to be the one
The battles always choose
'Cause inside I realize
That I'm the one confused

[Chorus:]
I don't know what's worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream
I don't know why I instigate
And say what I don't mean
I don't know how I got this way
I know it's not alright
So I'm breaking the habit
I'm breaking the habit
Tonight

Clutching my cure
I tightly lock the door
I try to catch my breath again
I hurt much more
Than anytime before
I had no options left again

[Bridge:]
I dont want to be the one
The battles always choose
'Cause inside I realize
That I'm the one confused

[Chorus:]
I don't know what's worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream
I don't know why I instigate
And say what I don't mean
I don't know how I got this way
I'll never be alright
So, I'm breaking the habit
I'm breaking the habit
Tonight

[Bridge:]
I'll paint it on the walls
'Cause I'm the one at fault
I'll never fight again
And this is how it ends

[Chorus:]
I don't know what's worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream
But now I have some clarity
to show you what I mean
I don't know how I got this way
I'll never be alright
So, I'm breaking the habit
I'm breaking the habit
I’m breaking the habit
Tonight

[ www.azlyrics.com ]

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