Friday, June 24, 2005

Check-ins

Check-in (Drabbles)
Rating: PG 13 for Language
Summary: Bruce has some concerns.

Check-in 1

“Lex.” Bruce complained, “What the hell is going on with this kid?”

“What’s wrong with Clark?”

“He’s a fucking, pathological liar. That’s what’s wrong.”

“Oh.”

“Oh?... That’s all you have to say? Just fucking ‘Oh’?”

“Bruce, calm down.”

“You are half way to Arkham if you think I’m going to let someone I can’t trust stay in the mansion.”

“Bruce, if someone asked you how you spent your weekend, what would you tell them?

“That’s differ… you’re not serious.”

“Well, let’s just say that my two best friends have told me exactly the same lies for exactly the same reasons.”

***

Check-in 2

“Lex, this isn’t going to work.”

“Why, is he acting up?” Lex knew it was unlikely, but suspected that the shock of going into exile could tax even Clark’s boy-scout demeanor.

Bruce’s derisive chuckle belied that thought: “No, he’s a regular boyscout on that front- up before Alfred and never to bed before me.

“Then, what’s going on?”

“Lex, he can’t lie… at all.”

“That’s not what you said last week.”

“Oh, I didn’t say he doesn’t try, but he can’t lie convincingly.”

“I know.”
“You knew?”

“I was hoping you’d have better luck teaching him how than I did.”

***
Check-in 3

“Bruce, how are things?”

“He still can’t lie, but at this rate he could clep out of an MBA program in a year.”

“MBA?”

“Yeah, every second he’s not working with me, or Alfred… he’s reading something about business. Last week, I had Alfred bring down my old text books.”

“Don’t encourage that Bruce… the timing is a little odd.”

“Why…You can’t think that he’s planning to go after your father on his own turf?”

“I’ve known him for three years; and he’s never asked a single question about business, but add a little self-righteous anger, and ….”

“Shit.”

“Exactly.”

***
Check in 4

“Bruce, what’s going on? It’s been two weeks.”

“Oh, things were a little busy here. On the upside, his lying is improving: he still can’t fool me, but he convinced Alfred to make us a second breakfast when he’d already cooked the first.”

“And?”

“He ate it.”

“No, I mean what else has been going on?”

“Oh.”

“That’s all, Oh?”

“You were right… about taking on the old man.”

“Damn it.”

“He showed me his plan.”

“And?”

“It’s a good plan.”

Lex hoped Bruce wasn’t serious, but knew better than to underestimate the extent of his two friends’ martyr complexes.

***
Check in 5

“Master Lex?”

“Good afternoon, Alfred. Is everything alright?”

“Yes, Sir. I was simply calling at the young master’s request to schedule a luncheon. Master Bruce has been heavily engaged of late with a mutual business associate, and would appreciate your intervention.”

“And how is the ‘young master’?”

“Pensive, of late, I regret to say, Sir.”

“Pensive?” Lex was tempted to have lunch at the mansion, if only for the chance to see Clark, but knew it was risky. His father still suspected that he was involved in Clark’s disappearance.

“Alright Alfred, let me look at my schedule.”

“Very good, Sir.”

Thursday, June 23, 2005

For Emergencies Only

Title: For Emergencies Only.
Genre: PG 13, Drama,
Disclaimer: Don’t own them. Can’t have them, but wish I could.
Summary: When Clark is forced run, he discovers that Lex has more unexpected resources set aside for emergencies.

For Emergencies Only.

Barely contained shock could hardly skim the surface of Clark’s reaction when Lex roared into the driveway, screeched to a halt within feet of the porch, and jammed his fist into the horn. He was already out of the drivers seat when Martha, Jonathon, and Clark ran out.

“Get in, get in, get in.” The panic in his voice was too desperate to ignore; they climbed in without question.

Barely waiting for them to buckle up, Lex jumped back in, slammed the Ferrari into gear, and sped away from the farm, explaining… “I don’t know how long it will take for him to hear that I’ve canceled my meetings. When he does, he’ll know where I’ve gone.”

There was no question of who ‘he’ was as they barreled away from the Kent farm. The engine roared louder and louder as Lex pushed the engine and yelled over the motor as he continued, “He didn’t expect me to have my own office bugged… Doesn’t know that I heard… so we may have enough time. But, if he has someone inside any of my meetings… there’s no telling.”

“Time for what?” Jonathon demanded.

“To get Clark safely away.” Lex answered angrily, shocking Jonathon and Martha into silence.

“What the hell?”

“Clark, my father’s up at the castle right now arranging for how many teams I don’t know to snatch you from the farm the farm tonight… If Enrique hadn’t called to ask whether I was joining my father at dinner tonight, I wouldn’t have even thought to check the bugs, but….”
Shaking his head as he spoke, Lex dug into his jacket for a mini cd, popped the case open with his thumb, and gestured for Jonathon to put the cd in the player.

Catching Lex’s wrist lightly to as he lifted the mini cd from the plastic case, Jonathon fumbled with the buttons to open the cd player. Impatiently, Clark reached over the seat swatting his fathers hands away from Lex’s wrist and the player then smoothly opened the player, dropped in the mini cd, returned the tray, and punched the play button. Lionel’s voice filled the car.

“Dominic, status report.”

“Sir, both teams are at the staging area. The truck is due to arrive in forty-five minutes and its cargo will be divided among the teams at that time. Latest estimates suggest that the meteor radiation’s bubble will allow the disbursement of the meteor ore at a 20% greater distance than previously estimated, which should take off an additional 45 minutes of preparation time. Nevertheless, the teams will still need to wait until dark to prevent an untimely discovery of their preparations. With the new projection, the estimated time until the target is captured is reduced to three hours.”

“No, stay with the previous projection and disbursement pattern.”

“But..”

“The delay is worth the caution, Dominic. Kent is a resourceful young man and not as likely to be herded in the direction you desire… as easily as you might imagine. Stay with the current plans.”

“Yes Sir, and have you considered the scope of acceptable collateral damages?”

“The father, of course, and the small blonde classmate Sullivan… perhaps I should offer a bonus for removing certain annoyances… No, that would encourage sloppiness; however, if something along those lines should occur, find out who is responsible and add them to the selection list for our next little project… provided it is discreetly managed, of course. The mother may prove useful in controlling the boy later on and should not be harmed. Any other bystanders should be dealt with as needed.”

“Does that include your son, Sir?”

Lionel snorted, “I have arranged for him to be tied up in meetings all day.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“However, if he does choose to neglect his duties…non-permanent injuries only… and, Dominic…”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Tell them to avoid head injuries and visible wounds, the publicity stills for the stockholder’s report are scheduled for Thursday, and bruises rarely inspire confidence.”

“Very good, Sir.”

Lex punched the eject button and handed Jonathon the case with a significant glance to silence any interruption, “You can listen to the details later, but you’ve probably heard enough to understand what I’m doing.”

“What exactly are you doing?” Jonathon demanded.

“Getting Clark away from here. I can protect you both, Lana, and Chloe, and possibly myse…” he stopped, shook his head, then continued, “but, I don’t have the resources, yet, to give him keep a safe hideout here or to prevent my father from hiring as many teams as it takes to find him and take him. However, I’ve called in a favor from a friend—someone who can be trusted. You’ll get to meet him and you’ll understand…” he interjected forestalling Jonathon’s protest “My friend has quite a bit of experience with helping ‘refugees’ blend into the wood work and can teach Clark how to stay hidden.”

“He sounds … somewhat shady …” Martha commented, chewing her lip.

Lex smirked, “Shady… well, yes. Dark, definitely… but don’t worry. I haven’t told him anything about the situation. If you decide you can’t trust him or can think of another way out, then Clark simply won’t go with him, and we’ll try to work things out some other way.”

“Who is this friend of yours?” Jonathon asked find it difficult to suppress his suspicious tone.

“Uh…” Lex’s uncharacteristic murmur caused Jonathon’s eyebrow to shoot up as Lex continued. “I could name drop, but… it would probably be better for you to meet him first… You … hmm… might…” Lex glanced away painfully, “doubt … my sanity, otherwise.”

If it weren’t for the apparent pain in the admission, Jonathon would have pushed, but let the issue dropped when he noticed how closely Clark was watching Lex. This was going to be hard enough on Clark, if they let him go, which Jonathon wasn’t entirely sure of yet; having a fight with Lex now, when he was clearly trying to protect Clark from the family’s worst nightmare, would only make the whole situation worse. Trying his best to mimic Lex’s familiar sarcastic tone’s, Jonathon asked, “So, when are we going to meet this question in sanity?”

Lex barked in surprise and flashed Jonathon an ironic grin as the question came perfectly timed with his turn into the Smallville landfill. As he speed between the artificial hills to a spot well hidden from the road, Lex nodded to a flat, recently cleared area just ahead as he said “I was afraid that Dad’s,” he fairly spat the word.

“… staging area might have been one of the local airfields, so I told … Bruce...” he paused then shrugged and continued, “to meet us there. I don’t know how long it will take for him to get here though, but I called him as soon as I could get an untraceable cell phone. Speaking of which…” Lex stopped the car at what he hoped was a safe distance from the clearing and jumped out with an explosive burst of nervous energy.

Even Clark could barely register what Lex was doing before he was back in the driver’s seat with a non-descript gym bag that he had pulled from the trunk. Unzipping the bag, Lex stared in trying to decide what he should discuss first and finally decided to go with the least palatable aspect first. Pulling out a flat square box, Lex opened it to reveal a modern version of a derringer in an ugly wrist holster. He hesitated before turning the box to Clark.

“Keep this with you as much as you can.” Reading their shocked expressions, Lex continued, “Look, he seems to know something that I only figured out when I listened to the cd. Meteor rocks hurt you; don’t they, Clark? That’s why you flinched when I gave you back Lana’s necklace, and in the warehouse why you seemed so shaky when Earl and…never mind” Lex cut off the topic even though he would have clearly liked some confirmation to finish, “I know you’re strong enough to fight anyone who came at you hand to hand. But, what if they never get near you? I’ve seen the meteor ore in … his safe… if he can put it in blocks he can put it in other things… like bullets… and if he knows it hurts you… everyone that he sends after you will know it, too. Even if they don’t always know how to use it.”

The last thing Lex expected was for Jonathon to nod, but it happened. His next question surprised Lex even more, “Can it be traced back to you?”

“Uhmm… no, it’s a souvenir from my ‘partying days’ in New York. It belonged to a drug dealer who was later killed by a hooker he’d beaten up one to many times. I doubt he would have reported it stolen even if he noticed it was gone.” Looking back to Clark, who was squirming uncomfortably, he assured his friend, “I know you, you won’t hurt anyone who doesn’t come after you to do worse. Just remember, it’s a one-time-use thing – it has six automatically loaded bullets, but only use as many as you need to make sure that the person is stopped. Always expect them to have a back up person, who you may need the other bullets for. Then, keep it with you until you can find some acid or bleach, the strong stuff… like to clean pools and drop the whole thing in… to get rid of your finger prints and DNA,” With that said, he closed the box, put it back in the bag, and pulled out a well-crafted money belt.

“This too, on you at all times. You may not be able to get back to any hiding place, office, vehicle, or place you’re staying at, so just wear it. Everyday, all day… all night for that matter. Bruce can tell you where to get another if it wears out, but it’s a space age polymer material that probably won’t wear out any time soon.” He smirked, “Like spandex, only better… bullet proof.’

Clark stared at him for several moments wondering why Lex smirked at the comment, then chuckled with a flash of intuition, “Let me guess: it’s a Lexcorp invention?”

Lex’s smirk broadened into a wide grin as he answered, “Not quite, I invented it in grad school, but didn’t want… him … to get a hold of it, so gave it to my friend. He uses it now on a very limited basis to make bullet-proof clothing for diplomats and world leaders…. Any way,” he lifted one end of the money belt to show Clark a tiny keypad for a digital lock.

“Right now, the pass word is Julian. – J – u – l – i – a – n –“ He spelled the word out as he keyed in the password. As he finished, Clark heard a soft pop.

“Magnetic locks,” Lex explained as he slipped his thumb beneath the belt’s broadest flap.

“There’s ten thousand here in hundreds, un-marked and with non-sequential serial numbers. I would have used smaller if I could but it’s almost too bulky as it is. Never take any of it out anywhere someone can see it. It sounds too obvious to say, but so many of the biggest mistakes are. Only break one at a time. To keep anyone from asking questions about why a teenager has such a large bill, have Bruce get you several of those birthday cards with the money flaps in them and write a granny note for you. He’s good at those. Before you go to the store, put one in, put it back in the envelope, and tuck it into your back pocket. Then, only when everything is rung up and it’s time to pay, take it out in front of the clerk. After they run the counterfeit pen over it, most clerks won’t think twice about or remember later if anyone asks about someone unusual.”

Ignoring the Kent’s shocked stares, he sealed the pouch and went to the next. Dipping his fingers into the next pocket, Lex pulled out two thin business card-sized memo books: one maroon and one black. As long as they were already discussing money, Lex decided to start with the maroon one.

“Here’s a list of numbered accounts in the Cayman’s. Bruce can explain how they work. Each has one hundred fifty thousand in it. The password for each is Julian. This book has all of the other information that you need to access it as well as the relevant security questions and codes. As soon as I can, I’ll fax Bruce the signature cards to transfer the accounts into your name.”

After glancing up to make sure that Clark was paying attention, he continued, “Once your identity’s set up, pick one then pull everything out and close that account. Go to a different bank and set up a new one in that identity’s name. Record the information in here if you like I’d use a separate page per identity so you could rip it out if needed. Once you’ve transferred the account, bring the money belt back to the ten thousand dollar mark, and pull out enough cash to live there for a year. Divide that amount up, a third you’ll keep with you in your wallet to pay first, last, security on wherever you live, buy a used car, clothes etc. Put another third in a safety deposit box at the smallest bank you can find. The other third, you put in the bottom of a shaving kit, gym bag, backpack, or something like that in a locker at the airport. You never know when you may not be able to get back to one of the caches. I’m sure Bruce will go over a lot of this with you, but…” He didn’t quite admit that he felt better making sure Clark knew it, but suspected from the look in Clark’s eyes that Clark could tell.

Suddenly he noticed Jonathon’s tight jaw and wondered if he should ask, “What is it?”

But, Jonathon supplied the answer before he could ask the question, “No, Lex, he can’t take that. It’s too much… It’s just too much. He’s…”

Realizing that it sounded too much like charity for Jonathon’s taste, Lex recognized that he needed to remind him and Clark both of the situation. Shaking his head angrily, he began ticking off painful questions about Clark’s near future:

“Too much, Jonathon? How long is he going to have to stay on the run from my father?” the word dripped with scorn.

“How long will he have to put off his education? His career? His chance to date, make friends, build a family?”

“How many times will he have to pick up and run in the middle of the night leaving everything he’s made for himself behind?”

“How many times will he have to pay first, last, and security on apartments that he doesn’t even stay a month in?”

“How many times will he have to buy the barest furniture to live on, because you can’t just toss everything in a U-haul when you’re on the run?”

“How many cars will he have to buy only to abandon when he changes identities?”

“How many plane tickets, because going by bus would take too long and leave him vulnerable if my father’s goons found his trail?

“How many times will he have to pick up and move before he can even find a decent job to make his way on?”

“How many jobs will he not even get a chance at because he doesn’t have a verifiable resume and references? And he won’t be able to work where he has the most knowledge, on farms and ranches, because that’s where my father’s people will look first?”

“And, what about all the money it takes to just plain make things worth living on the run. Is he never to go to a concert? A movie? A good restaurant?”

“God, Jonathon, I hope it’s enough. It may not be, but how do you get more to him when you have no idea where he is? And, I know him well enough to know that he will probably never tell any of us that he’s having a hard time with it and could use more. I don’t think he’s ever asked me for anything that wasn’t related to helping someone else who was in need.”

Jonathon paled as Lex spoke, but finally nodded. Beside him, the tears that had been welling in Martha’s eyes, since she first heard the CD, finally spilled over. Understanding completely, Lex reached back over the seat to stroke her arm where Jonathon and Clark weren’t already pulling her into a hug.

“I promise, I’ll do everything I can to end this quickly and make it seem as if it were only a vacation from school instead of…” he looked away, but he might as well have said the word because Clark heard it in his memory of Lex’s first describing his reason for being in Smallville.

“Exile?” Clark asked softly.

Lex’s eyes flashed guiltily at Clark, apologizing for all of the things he hadn’t done that lead to this. He hadn’t died when he went over the bridge; that might have ended Lionel’s interest in the Smallville as a whole if it weren’t for the meteorites. He hadn’t warned Clark that his father seemed to believe that it was his unholy mission to personally destroy anyone who Lex came to care about; that might have ended it, but Lex wasn’t entirely certain of that because Clark could have guessed as much over their history. He hadn’t had the nerve to kill his father when the storms had weakened him, but now suspected that if he had- it would have been enough to turn him into Lionel or worse a Lionel with an obsession on Clark Kent… and this day still would have arrived, only without Lex on Clark’s side.

And, maybe, Clark saw that too, he wasn’t even sure. His mind was still asking himself all of the questions that Lex had asked his father. They frightened him, but in some ways, they almost sounded good… sounded like an adventure. He wondered what it might be like to not have to worry about lying every day to everyone that he cared about. He knew he would still be lying about even more now, but… there was somehow a freedom to the idea of being able to pick up and go before anyone started asking the hard questions.

Taking a clue from Lex’s comment, he hugged his mom gently, and whispered to her… “Maybe, I can treat it like a vacation… like an adventure… like hiking through Europe or something. You said once that you used to hope I could do that after college. I’ll just do it early. I’ll see all the museums. I promise. Everywhere I go, the doll museums, art museums, zipper museums, sewing museums.” Flashing a grin at Lex, he continued, “car museums, sports museums, even xylophone museums…all of them. I promise. I’ll go to the libraries and gardens and flea markets. I’ll buy used books and read all of the ones that you always wanted me to read. I have the whole list memorized and Lex’s list, too… and language books, maybe I can learn Spanish in Miami or New Mexico…German from the Amish, maybe Chinese in little china town. And, I’ll get one of those note books like you told me that Lewis and Clark kept” he smiled at the pun… as he continued, “journals and, I’ll write in it every day, and when I come back, you can read it all of it. And, I’ll go to all of those historic places that you told me the stories about… where people learned about how freedom worked for better or worse. I’ll go to the beach and make sand castles. I’ll go down in caves to make chalk drawings, and I’ll write about every moment, Okay?”

He paused using his thumbs to wipe the last of her tears away, then finished, “do you remember what you told me the first time I realized that tornadoes could hurt people… when we were down in the cellar, in the dark?”

After a second, she nodded quietly, and smiled.

“It’s the same. I’ll do it this time, too.”

Jonathon and Lex stared at them, mystified, but the moment that had passed between Clark and Martha seemed meant for them alone, and Clark had turned back to Lex expectantly.

“Okay, what else?” The simplicity of his question stunned, Lex… who, for just a moment, couldn’t think of what was next. He had overheard the soft list that Clark had murmured to his mother, and wondered if the boy really believed that it could be that easy. He shook his head for a moment as he tried to decide whether it was more important that Clark went into his ‘adventure’ with realistic expectations… or with hope. He couldn’t decide, so returned instead to explaining the next little memo book.

“Okay, this one.” He nudged the black memo book toward Clark with the tip of his finger. “This one contains a list of emergency contacts that you can call in case of an emergency. They are organized by area and the activities they can help with. Tell anyone you have to contact that you are calling in on my favor… the details of which are also recorded here in case they balk and ask how they know that its my favor your calling in. Don’t trust any of them. Not even the ones that I’ve highlighted… the one’s I trust… they know me and we have shared experiences to bind us… it might not be the same for you. Just call them and tell them what you need done, but never… never… ever meet them in person.”

“Now, this,” he pointed to the little device behind it that was barely as big as a business card. “This is a little something I was working on for Chloe’s birthday. I doubt she’ll mind me giving it to you though, and I’ll build her another one. It’s a voice recorder that records directly onto the mini-cd’s. Each cd holds about 25 hours of recordings permanently. The next pouch has a little wallet that holds ten mini-cd’s each side. You can get the blank mini-cd’s anywhere and this will record onto them.” He paused for a moment and tried to remember if there was anything else that he need say about the belt or its contents.

“The rest is pretty self-explanatory. What you don’t already know, you could probably figure out on your own given time, but Lionel won’t be inclined to give you the time. That’s why I called Bruce in. He can also teach you about self-defense and strategy… there’s a lot more to fighting than being strong, you’ll need to learn it. Ask him, and he’ll teach you without all of the esoteric underpinnings and breaking of wooden boards that you would get from a regular martial arts studio. It’ll be the down-in-the-dirt, no-holes-barred, play-dirty-if-you-have-to kind of fighting, though, and I know it will be hard for you to get into that kind of mind set; but, if there’s something that can push you into a hand to hand fight, that’s the kind of fighting you would be dealing with anyways. He’s good at it… and good at teaching it.”

Saying that, Lex turned back to the bag and dug out a grocery bag, as he spoke “He’s also promised to teach you everything else you need to know about going underground, and keeping a low profile. And, he will try to convince you not to call your parents—not any time soon, not until you can be certain… absolutely certain that it’s safe to return. And, he’s probably right, it would be safer for them. Lionel’s less likely to try to get information, if he thinks they don’t have any. But, he doesn’t know you. I know better. It’s dangerous—both to you and your parents for you to call—but, as I’m sure you will still try to find a way do it, I want you to have these…” Lex handed Clark the grocery bag.

“There are two dozen un-activated pay as you go cell phones from different companies and stores. Their matching pre-paid cards are in the smaller bag there. When you feel like you need to call your parents, drive or take the bus somewhere fifty or sixty miles or more away from where you are staying at the time. When you get far enough away, go to a mall, activate the cell phone, make the call, and then trash the phone right there. Now this is important: never stay on more 15 minutes. There’s no telling how close someone may be or how close they are on your trail. He has the technology to trace calls in less than a minute, and even if it’s unlikely that he could get someone to the mall –a single call to mall security and he could have the entrances watched or blocked. Once you’ve trashed it, get on a bus going anywhere but where you’ve been staying. Get a hotel room and stay the night. In the morning, start out a couple hours before dawn so that you will be able to see the headlights of any cars that follow you. If you think you are being follow, don’t take chances- get out of there and don’t go back to wherever you were staying for at least a month. When you do go back, clear out your bank account’s and cache’s then leave. Don’t go back to your work or to your apartment or anywhere else that someone might recognize you and be able to call one of my father’s people.” Lex trailed off quietly wishing for more time to say the things he could have only said without Clark’s parents around. After a moment, he returned everything to the gym bag and handed to Clark.

A low grumble erupted from Clark’s throat surprising Lex for a moment, but only a moment, as he considered how much it must be for Clark to take in. The boy must have finally realized what he was giving up. Lex tried to summon consoling words and hope. But, he was never good with hope; that was Clark's particular skill. So, he drew on all the hopeful things Clark had told in his own dark times for inspiration, hoping that whatever he managed to say would be right. But, when he turned to look in Clark’s eyes, the words died on his lips—killed by the fierce anger pouring from Clark.

“Clark?”

The gym bag stuck him dead center, knocking his breath from him and shocking Clark’s parents.

“How could you? How could you think I would take that.” Clark yelled, “From you. I won’t do it.” Lex paled as he realized that Clark had figured out his secret.

“What is it, Son?” Jonathon asked, staring suspiciously at Lex for the first time.

“All of the passwords were Julian.” Clark answered as if that explained everything. To Clark, it clearly did.

“Clark, you’re not making sense, Son.” Jonathon looked between the two boys, noting for the first time a glimpse of true fear sweep over the boy’s face. He turned to Martha in confusion to notice that she was staring at Lex also; but, with a knowing glance that made him wonder how he was the only one left out of the conversation when he had been right there beside them paying attention the whole time.

Laying a consoling palm on Jonathon’s arm, Martha realized he hadn’t understood what Clark had just realized and what she had recognized the moment that she had heard the password for the money belt. Turning back to Lex, she asked simply: “Belle Reve?”

Embarrassed that his fears were so readable, Lex nodded and turned away so that he wouldn’t have to watch their compassion turn to disgust as he admitted: “I could take knowing that he would keep trying to hurt me… that’s fairly status quo, that he would possibly try to kill me, and that he might try to hurt the people that I care about. He’s always done that.” His voice dropped to a whisper, “Luthors aren’t supposed to care about anyone after all, and I’ve been fairly confident, until know, that I could protect … the people who matter… the people he would go after. I was a fool to underestimate him so badly. But, when he…” Lex’s voice became harsh and raspy as he trailed off.

Martha’s hand covered his as she prompted, “Belle Reve.”

“When he could … drug me… knowing what I’d feel… that I’d feel my sanity deteriorating slowly. Just knowing that he could do that again.” Lex shuddered and tried to force down his revulsion at the thought as he finished: “Just knowing that he could do that again—that I could be forced to endure as my mind disintegrates bit by bit… has been almost more than I could take. I wanted to have something ready in case I started to recognize that feeling again.”

In the stunned silence that followed, Lex struggled uselessly for the composure to finally turn and face them. His father was right, and now Clark and his parents had seen just how much of a simpering coward he could be. Before he really understood what was happening, strong calloused hands- Jonathon’s? Jonathon’s hands- closed over Lex’s wrists and pulled his hands away from his face (he hadn’t even realized that he’d covered his face)… turning Lex to face him as he did. When Jonathon finally spoke, it wasn’t in the loathing tones that he’d expected.

“That’s what you meant… isn’t it? About ‘protecting us and maybe yourself’? Well, don’t worry, son. We’ll find another way.” At the word ‘son’, Lex’s heart faltered for a moment and he was forced to look in Jonathon’s eyes to be certain that he’d actually said that to him. It couldn’t be… not in that tone of voice… that was the tone he used for Clark… only for Clark. But, Jonathon was looking him in the eyes with a sadly encouraging attempt at a comforting look. God, what good had he done in a former life to ever meet people like the Kents. He couldn’t look at Clark yet, or Martha either, knowing that if Jonathon’s compassion had his heart faltering, theirs would stop it. But, he did keep Jonathon’s eye as he answered. “What else is there? His people are coming, Jonathon… Tonight, if not sooner. As long as they think they can get to Clark—they will go through you to get to do it. It’s safer for Clark and for you if he’s out of their reach quickly. If nothing else, it will give us time to figure out some alternative.” With a shrug, he handed the gym bag back to Clark, who took it complacently

A mournful lethargy settled over them as they waited trying to work through the any alternative that came to mind. Clark finally broke the silence as he shuddered and reached out to put his arms around Lex’s shoulders. “Thank you. I don’t know what else to say. But, what about you? Won’t your father know that you’ve helped. Won’t he come after you to0?”

A soft gruff voice sounded from behind them, “That’s not something that you have to worry about kid.”

Before anyone realized it, Clark had jumped out of the car, sped around the hood, and lifted the dark figure over three feet off the ground by his throat.

“Clark!” Lex barked sharply as he recognized the odd black boots with strangely rigid barbs that seemed to grow more pronounced out from the outside of the figure’s ankles to his outer calf. “Put him down. He’s the friend I was telling you about.”

“F-Fr-iend” Jonathon stuttered, looking beyond his son and the dark figure to the bat-plane settled quietly in the field beyond. “You’re right… I would have thought you were nuts… you’re friend is…” In one breath, Lex, Clark, Jonathon, and Martha answered:

“Batman,” Lex, Jonathon, and Clark commented in differing tones of amusement and awe.

“Bruce Wayne,” Martha breathed out in surprise, ignoring the shocked look on their faces.

“Lex,” Batman growled as Clark suddenly realized he was still holding Batman off the ground by the throat and carefully set him down as he stared at his mother.

“Mom?”
“Martha?”
“Mrs. Kent?”

Noticing the hostile look that Batman was shooting Lex, Martha snapped in her most effective motherly snark, “You stop that right know young man. He didn’t tell us anything about you.”

“Really,” Batman snarled, ignoring the angry look that even Lex was giving him as he asked, “Then would you care to explain how you’ve discerned my identity?”

“Your lips.” She answered smugly, “You really should keep them covered, they quite give you away.”

A moment of stunned silence was broken as soft hiccoughing sounds broke from Lex and grew from throaty chuckles into full-blown laughter.

“Oh, shut up.” Batman growled at him, but in an almost good natured rumble.

“I told you…” Lex laughed, then turned back to the Kents to explain, “I told him that…. that anyone who looked at his lips would know right away who he was.”

Relieved to see Lex’s easy humor showing through, after what Clark knew was a difficult admission for Lex, Clark simply grinned looking back and forth between Lex and his mom who had also started smiling… perhaps for the first time tonight trusting that he would be alright and could be trusted into Batman’s protection. Wow. Lex knew Batman. The Batman. How cool was that. And why hadn’t Lex shared that little tidbit… Oops, no, scratch that thought. Can’t fault Lex for not sharing—that whole kettle-black thing.

“Wow!” Clark turned to notice that Batman/Mr. Wayne was rubbing his throat through the rubberized mask.

“Oh, gosh, I’m sorry, Ba—Mr. Wayne. I just… you kind of… out of nowhere… I mean.” Clark ducked his head realizing a whole new level of embarrassment. It was bad enough to be stammering and stuttering in front of Lex, who was giving Clark everything he had pulled together to escape from his father, and wasn’t that scary. But, stuttering in front of Lex’s friend, Lex’s superhero friend, (Lex had a superhero friend !)– that was just the total epitome of lame and his hot-faced blush just topped it right off with a nice touch of naïve hick. He hoped Lex wasn’t embarrassed because of him too.

Thankfully, Lex’s answer assured Clark otherwise: “What I believe Clark is trying to say, Batman, is that he’s sorry for throttling you, but if you hadn’t skulked up in the shadows in the first place without warning us, he wouldn’t have needed to get aggressive. Right Clark?”

“Yeah…I mean no. Leexxx!” Batman didn’t skulk. Right? He stalked maybe even sneaked, but he definitely didn’t skulk. This was just going from bad to worse. “That’s not what I was trying to say.”

“Don’t worry about it kid. Lex and I go back several years” Batman grinned snidely, deciding to get a little of his own back, “He was just using you to hide the fact that he nearly colored his undies when I surprised you all.”

Clark’s blush doubled, catching Batman’s speculative glance, but the comment was otherwise ignored as he asked Clark remembered the other comment Batman had made on his arrival.

“Sir, you said we didn’t have to worry about Lex, but his father’s gone to an awful lot of trouble to… pick me up… and he won’t be happy with Lex if he thinks that he’s done anything to help us. But, Lex wants to give me this…” He held up the gym bag certain that Batman would probably recognize or guess its significance. “So, I can get away, but he should really take it.” Clark’s gaze shifted and held Lex’s as he finished… almost pleading with his friend to take the case back for his own good. Clark wouldn’t hurt Lex by forcing it back on him, but anything short of that, including using his pathetic-puppy dog face was fair game.

Bruce watched the glances passing between Clark and Lex. *Who the hell was this kid anyway?* Lex helping him out of whatever jam he’d gotten himself into that put him in the old man’s sights was one thing, but giving the kid his ‘emergency kit’ was quite another. Bruce thought that he had taught Lex better than that. If the kid were family … maybe that would justify it. He certainly understood Lex’s yearning for a family, but ever since Lucas had dethroned Lex, Bruce had carefully investigated all of Lionel’s old ‘acquaintances’ and knew exactly who Lex’s potential family members were. This kid wasn’t anywhere on the list. As he tried to digest what their relationship must be, Bruce realized that a heavy silence had settled over the car as they waited for some answer to become apparent.

“Like I said, Kid. There’s no need to worry about that. Even as we speak, two more of Lex’s ‘friends’ are holding a very convincing press conference, in Gothem, to announce the closing of negotiations on an extremely lucrative contract for Luthorcorp. Even if he has any suspicion that Lex was involved in helping Clark escape, seeing us two of us together on the evening news should be enough to quell anything that might come of it.”

“But…” Clark hated to interrupt, and he was incredibly grateful to know that Lex was being protected by Batman, but knowing that Lex was giving him so much still worried him. “What if it’s not enough? I mean… I don’t mean that you’re not doing enough. It’s just that… shouldn’t he… have this? Just… you know… in case Lionel doesn’t buy it?” Clark avoided Lex’s astonished stare, hoping that Bruce could talk Lex into taking it back.

*Hmm* That certainly brought him up a step or two higher in Bruce’s estimation. Watching the kid start to blush under his best ‘piercing glare’ Bruce began to wonder what kind of person could earn this kind of loyalty from Lex and what Clark had done to secure it.

“If I thought that far ahead, Kid, don’t you think I would have other things planned as well. I never could trust Lex to be near his stash when he needed it anyway.” As he spoke, opened a pocket on his utility belt, which no one seemed to notice until now, and pulled out a thickly folded belt that looked almost exactly like the one Lex had given Clark. “I’ve had this ready for years, and have been adding to it every Christmas.”

“Oh…” The look of relief on the kid’s face, was only slightly more amusing than the look of shock on Lex’s face.

“But, we really don’t have time for this. Lex, keep that with you. I’ll call for lunch to discuss the ‘negotiations’ further. Kid, say your goodbyes and let’s go.”

Feeling strangely restrained by Bruce’s presence, Clark gave both of his parents a hug and a kiss – promising that he would be alright- and then turned to Lex.

“I’m sorry.” They both said at once, then laughed and leaned into each with a quick rowdy hug. After a second, Clark took a final glance at them then followed Bruce into the darkness.

As they disappeared over the slope, Lex turned back to Martha asking hesitantly, “Do you mind if I ask—what did he say to you about the tornados?”

Smiling sadly, Martha shook her head. “He was such a little thing. But, he looked at me so seriously and told me that if he ever got the chance to ‘ride’ a tornado then he would look all around. That way even if he got hurt, it would be worth it because then he would have seen everything.”

Lex smiled back at her, admiring his friend’s adventurous spirit, until he couldn’t stand the thought or feeling of losing his exposure to it and scrambled out the door. Before he knew it, he’d passed the break in the brush and was almost running after Bruce and Clark.

Almost instantly, Lex found himself facing Clark, who’d heard his approach and returned. In the background, Bruce was cursing as he followed Clark back.

“Lex?”

Cupping his palm to Clark’s cheek, Lex tried to memorize the exact pattern and shade of Clark’s eyes, the feel of his skin, and the sound of his voice, before he answered “Just stay out of trouble, Okay? I don’t think I could take living in the backwaters, if I didn’t think my best friend was coming back soon.”

He didn’t say what he was really feeling. He didn’t know how to. No one had ever taught him how to say it and mean it. Not like this. But, he hoped Clark could somehow use that gift for reading him that no one else, not even Bruce, had ever developed, to understand what he meant.

Clark was quiet for a second, matching the intensity of Lex’s stare, before answered, “I promise,” and disappeared back into the darkness.

Chapter 42: Manipulations

As Lex continued, his softly voiced concerns broke through the litany of newscasts, just as they had often broken through his mother’s litanies of guilt and doubt.

Clark’s shuddering slowed as he began to listen—uncurling slightly as he did. Finally, as the litanies returned to a distracting undercurrent, Clark lifted his head to mirror Lex’s pose by propping his chin on his knees. He had recognized all of these concerns from the first moment he had been completely conscious, but was deeply touched that these were still Lex’s concerns even after he knew about the bank. Clark had hoped to put off the admission until after he got Lex out the window and on to the fire escape, but now couldn’t bear to intentionally deceive him.

“I know… Lex, you have to leave me here.” Clark answered simply.

Lex had come to the same conclusion on his own, but was troubled by the resigned tone Clark used to second his decision.

Suddenly, a flash of intuition washed over Lex as he realized why he had the impression earlier that Clark was trying to manipulate him. Clark had obviously realized before Lex that he couldn’t get out and undoubtedly understood that he couldn’t protect himself either.

Irrationally, another flare of anger at Clark’s all-to-accepting sense of self-sacrifice swept through Lex, as he blazed at Clark, “Damn it, Clark, you knew. You knew and you were just going to make sure I got out. What then? Were you just going to wait until they came for you? And, killed you? You know that’s what they’re planning to do, don’t you? You’re just a loose- end to them.”

Lex’s voice broke with frustration, sadness, and anger as he spoke. He couldn’t understand how Clark could value everyone else’s lives so much, then turn around and throw his own life away so easily… without even a fight.

“Have you even tried to figure something else out? Like some place you can hide until I get back with the police? Or, some trap you could set up to stall them? Why won’t you try to fight for yourself as hard as you have for the rest of us?” Lex seethed, surprising himself and Clark with his emotional outburst.

Embarrassed by the unusual loss of restraint, particularly when he knew Clark was already so emotionally fragile, Lex tucked his chin down dropping his forehead to his knees as he unintentionally mimicked Clark’s defensive pose.

Chapter 41: Recognition

“Oh, my god. Are you sure? Are you sure those were the names he said?”

“Emily and Jacob, Ben, Savannah, Sarah and Cheryl, George… Yes, I’m certain, that’s exactly how he said them. He was so up set, but I don’t know why. There aren’t any families in Smallville with those names. Well there’s a Ben and a George, but none of the others. It just doesn’t make sense.” Lana stared at Chloe mystified as she answered.

“Oh yes, it does- I don’t know how but… Where’s the paper?”

“What?”

Chloe stared at Lana as though she were a dense child and explained, “The newspaper. Someone always brings in a copy of the ledger or the planet. Where is it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I hadn’t noticed.”

Chloe bolted from her seat and ran from table to table checking all of the chairs for a newspaper.

“You manage a coffee shop and haven’t noticed that people like to read the newspaper with their coffee?” Not that she was intending to get snarky, but sometimes Chloe simply couldn’t believe how oblivious Lana could be. Not for the first, she wondered why Lex had let Lana stay in business and how much he was losing to do so.

“No,” Lana responded somewhat miffed. “I just meant that I hadn’t noticed where it was set today.”

Mmhmm. Chloe was not certain that she bought it, but it didn’t seem like the time for such speculations. By the time she’d reached the twelfth table, she was almost ready to give up. Then, it dawned on her. Right outside the front door, Lex had requested two newspaper vending boxes. Grabbing up her purse. Chloe dashed outside and returned quickly with a copy of the planet.

Before she had even reached the table, Chloe was surprising Lana by pulling open the paper and letting the unwanted sections drop away behind her as she walked, and slapping the remaining section down on the table with a loud smack.

“There. There Emily and Jacob. There’s Ben. George. Cheryl and Sarah. And, there’s Savannah. Their names are all there.”

Lana stared at the page with angst and silent tears pouring from her eyes, before shaking her head and rejecting Chloe’s speculation, “No, it can’t be. We know he was here when that happened. He’s not involved. He can’t be.”

But Chloe remembered Kal, and she remembered Lex’s strong reaction to hearing about Clark’s summer activities. “I bet Lex thinks he is.” Chloe speculated.

“No, Lex is Clark’s best friend. He knows Clark isn’t capable of that.”

“Does he?... He didn’t even seem to know about Metropolis. And you remember how he looked when he found out? He knows something. I’m sure of it.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Chapter 40: Plans

Gulping fiercely as he swallowed, Clark met Lex’s eyes with a look that made Lex hold his breath. Every glimmer of energy and personality in Clark’s eyes seemed overshadowed by a deep, enervating despair. Holding Clark’s chin so that their eyes stayed locked even when Clark tried to look away, Lex waited silently until Clark conceded in an almost inaudible, painfully-raw whisper, “I planned the Metropolis central savings and loan robbery.”

Despite himself, Lex snatched his hand from Clark’s chin and jumped to his feet. Even with the startling revelations of the past few days, it was only now that Clark seemed like a complete stranger and a dangerous unknown quantity that Lex couldn’t get a handle on because everything he knew about his friend was changing too swiftly.

At the same time, however, as he looked down on Clark who was pulling into an even tighter, defensive ball—Lex was certain that he was looking at the same selfless friend who had risked his own life numerous times to protect everyone he cared about including Lex.

Huddled on the stair, in a tight miserable bundle, Clark was certain that his fears in the hospital had come true. Even Lex, who barely knew a quarter of the truth couldn’t accept him. Clark didn’t blame Lex though; so many people had died because of him. Now, Lex was being dragged into it because he was trying to help Clark. With every moment, Clark’s litany of guilt echoed louder and louder in his thoughts… pulling him farther and farther away from his awareness of their dangerous circumstances.

Pacing back and forth behind Clark, Lex was furiously trying to come up with the miracle they needed. It was worse than anything he had thought of while Clark had been out earlier. Clark knew who the burglars were, and that practically amounted to a death sentence. Clark was far too weak to keep up if they ran or to defend himself if left behind.

“Damn it, Clark…” Lex uttered in exasperation, “It would have been nice to know this in advance… when I could have had security on hand.”

“I’m sorry.” Clark whispered dispiritedly, pulling tighter as he did.

Lex largely ignored Clark’s apology and increasing misery as he continued to pace. There has to be a solution… There is always a solution. Some other way out. Lex thought to himself, though he was convinced of Clark’s certainty that there wasn’t another exit. Clark may have gotten past the fight pit… but how well can he really know this place… even if he was here all summer. Maybe there isn’t another exit, but what about a place to hide while I…

Turning back to ask Clark about potential hiding location, Lex was surprised to see that Clark’s violent shuddering had returned and drops of cold sweat covered Clark’s forehead as he leaned unevenly against the wall.

Feeling like an idiot, Lex chastised himself: I should have been paying better attention. The last thing we need is another anxiety attack… or worse, he could go into shock from everything that he’s been through today—physically and mentally.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Clark. I get why you’ve kept it a secret. I wish you hadn’t, of course, but I get it.”

His words didn’t make a dent in Clark’s desolate pose; however, so he tried a different approach… one that he used to use to draw his mom out of her depressions when she was overwrought. Returning to Clark, he sat on the stair beside him and tried to loosely mirror his friend’s pose—wrapping his arm’s around his bent legs and resting his chin on his knees. He waited quietly until he saw Clark react to his nearness by pulling away slightly… then, lowering his voice into the softest tones that he could manage (the ones that he had always reserved for his mother), Lex confessed, “Clark, I don’t know what to do. With your fear of heights and current weakness, I’m not certain that you can make whatever climb we need to… even if the ledge is sturdy enough to hold us both. And then, how can you run if they find us? You can barely climb the stairs.”

Chapter 39 Confronting Truths

Underneath Clark’s bluntness, Lex could see that his friend was deeply troubled and embarrassed, and he regretted that the difficult circumstances didn’t give him enough time to use kid gloves. While completely out of character, for Clark, Lex was certain there was more to the story than a teen’s wayward summer.

“That hardly sounds like you, but there’s more to this; isn’t there?” Lex asked as he gestured down the stairwell.”

Clark nodded grimly before continuing, “One night, after a bar fight, the man who gave me this…” Clark gingerly touched the cut on his temple, “followed me back to my apartment and asked if I wanted some real excitement.”

As he said “excitement”, Clark’s voice dropped into a harsh, self-loathing tone that immediately told Lex what his answer had been.

“There was a fight club downstairs. If you won enough fights, you got to come upstairs.” Clark said significantly, clearly hoping that Lex would understand the comment.

“A tobacco club?” Lex asked, referring to Metropolis’s euphemism for establishments where all forms of criminal activity were regularly bought and sold. Lex not only understood the reference, but had often frequented tobacco clubs during his visits to metropolis—occasionally to recruit special employees, but often simply to keep channels open with the type of individuals who had the skills go against his father’s employees in their many sparring matches. Despite his familiarity with these establishments, or really because of it, Lex found it even more difficult to believe that Clark had somehow made it past the first floor.

Certainly, Clark had an undeniable farm-bred strength, but the viciousness required to give the kind of beatings that would take him past the fight club—that was inconceivable to Lex. Even with the many years under his father’s callous tutelage, Lex had found it difficult and distasteful to muster the necessary quality in himself to make it through those battles. Even then, Lex had only managed it with the knowledge that he needed the connections he could make through the tobacco clubs if he intended to break away from his father’s control. Everything that he had come to believe about Clark was irreconcilable with this latest bit of information, but Clark’s confession was delivered with such sincere self-recrimination and self-loathing that it
convinced Lex.

What in the world could have driven him to this? Lex wondered to himself. Certainly not just a thirst for excitement. How far did he go? That, Lex decided was probably the crux of the matter: how far he went astray when he came upstairs.

“And?” Lex prompted.

“I… when I got upstairs… I…” Clark’s voice dropped to a strangled whisper as he started and broke off again. As Lex watched him with concern, Clark began to shudder violently. From the side, Lex noticed that Clark had begun to gulp and wondered if Clark was nauseous again, until he heard a broken sniff. Reaching his fingers into the gap between Clark’s bent arm and his cheek, Lex cupped his hand under Clark’s chin and lifted without resistance—only realizing as he did that his fingers were wet with the tears streaming silently down Clark’s face.

Wishing there was enough time to go more gently, and struck by guilt as he did, Lex nevertheless steeled himself and forced Clark to look at him as he sternly said, “Clark, we don’t have time for this. I need to know what kind of trouble we are dealing with here. Just say it.”

Chapter 38- Confidences

As they reached the top of the steps at the third floor, Clark doubled over again when another wave of nausea caught him mid-stride. Watching his friend with concern, Lex knew, before he even saw the window or the ledge that Clark was in no shape to make the trip with him. Grimly, Lex stopped and sat on the step beside Clark—waiting for the latest spell to stop.

“Clark,” he asked when his friend had stopped gulping for air, “are you absolutely certain that there isn’t any other way out.”

“No.” Clark answered, shaking his head wearily as he continued, “if they left anyone here to keep an eye on us and I’m sure they have… it would be downstairs on the first floor.

All of the other windows have been sealed, and so has the emergency exit to the roof. There’s only the window.”

“You seem very sure of that.” Lex pressed—deciding it was time to get the full scoop.

Folding his arms over his knees, and pressing his chin onto his crossed arms, and Clark conceded wearily, "I'm the person who sealed the windows."

"What?"

Knowing that while he may not have much time left to get Lex out--once Lex was out the window--so was his last chance to explain, Clark took a deep breath and steeled himself to explain. Recognizing victory, Lex sat back against the wall and waited—despite the chance that someone could come at anytime.

“On my summer vacation,” Clark began with an ironic almost bitter note, “I came to Metropolis… and…”

Finding it difficult to know where exactly to start, Clark cast about with six or seven different starts before finally coming to the point “I went on a crime spree.”

Lex’s surprised laughter died quickly as Clark dropped his chin—pulling his forehead down into the crook of his arms. His movement reminded Lex forcefully of an armadillo rolling into a ball trying to protect itself. Although Lana and Chloe had hinted as much, the thought of Clark knowingly involved in something criminal had not seemed quite real until he heard it from Clark.

“You’re serious?”

“Very,” Clark answered, “I did a lot of things… that I’d... rather forget: I partied…hard, rented expensive apartments, gambled, drank, got into fights, slept with... people... alot, and stole to pay for everything... and ... everyone.”

Chapter 37: Chances

Finally discarding the ropes that had tied Clark’s ankles, Lex carefully turned Clark over to begin on his wrists.

“Lex,” Clark’s rough, harsh voice surprised Lex as he worked.

“I’ll have you untied in a minute.” Lex said in the most soothing tone he could muster.

“How long was I out?”

Looking down at his watch, Lex guessed, “Probably close to twenty minutes, but don’t worry, you haven’t missed anything interesting.” Lex finished as he untied the last knot around Clark’s wrists and helped him sit up. “Welcome back by the way. Just curious though, what’s the last thing you remember?”

“Aside from losing my breakfast, lunch, and dinner?” Clark asked with the slightest hint of irony.

“Aside from that.” Lex nodded, hoping that his suspicions about the severity of the earlier blow to Clark’s temple were wrong.

“Well, not ducking fast enough for one thing. Lex have you ever considered buying rubber furniture?” Clark asked with a cajoling tone to soften the memory of his taking the blow in place of Lex.

Smirking at his friends response, Lex suppressed his relief over finding Clark’s mental faculties intact as he answered “I’ll think about it once we’re out of here, but we have other considerations do deal with first: like exactly how we are going to get out of here first.”

Clark shifted uncomfortably against the wall as he tried carefully to frame his response for the right effect. Ever-observant, particularly to manipulation attempts, Lex jumped on his discomfiture immediately, “What is it?”

“How well can you free climb?” Clark asked, certain that his ambitious, risk-taking friend would have tried mountain climbing at least once, and if he enjoyed it, would have quickly accelerated to the more dangerous forms of the sport.

“A bit rusty. Why?” Lex raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“Upstairs. On the fourth floor, there’s a window. When you open it, it looks out over a pretty long drop, but there’s a thin ledge that we can use to get around the corner to a fire escape. The building behind us is boarded up and abandoned, so no one should be able to see us climbing down.”

“Should I ask how you know this?” Lex asked, suppressing the urge to push for a full confession of what Lana and Chloe had already hinted at. He realized that they probably had very little time to get out but was still certain that Clark was trying to manipulate him in some way.

Clark’s response was blunt enough though to derail that suspicion momentarily, “I had an apartment here.”

“You have to give me the tour,” Lex held out his hand to help Clark up, “some other time, right now… Show me that window.”

Chapter 36: Speculations

Graham flipped through the summer’s thicker than usual stack of unsolved cases folders, certain that he was on the right track.

By the time he reached the bottom of the stack, Graham had sorted out twenty-seven folders; the pattern of bullets had been significant—pointing him toward an impossible subject: Morgan Edge.

Or, Graham thought to himself, an unknown person in Edge's 'company' who hasn't been active since Edge's reported death. But, that's almost too much of a coincidence, and everyone else thought to be in on Edge's operations had looong rap sheets and were too well known for him to think it was any of one of them.

All but eleven of the twenty-seven, Graham was certain could have been closed with a single name —-Morgan Edge—- if he could have found a single witness willing to chance crossing Edge.

But the anomalous eleven stood out for some peculiarity in each, that marked it distinctly outside of Edge’s well established, rarely-varying M.O.’s. In several of them, witnesses where alive who wouldn’t have been otherwise—and each with mild concussions from precisely applied almost pinpoint blows. In other cases security guards and local patrol cars were carefully distracted by false alarms at the extreme edges of their patrol.

Not that Edge ever tried to draw police attention, but his operations were enacted with callous disregard of the life of any witness, security guard, or police officer who stumbled across them. What made these and the other eleven summer cases distinct was their clear avoidance of unnecessary violence… to the extent that two of the incidents were even aborted mid-stream when the break ins were stumbled on by potential witnesses: something unheard of from Edge.

But what truly intrigued Graham was the seeming omnipotence (with regard to security systems and cameras) of whoever planned the eleven cases and the Metropolis savings and loan robbery. Inexplicably chaotic and violent thought it was, the robbery nevertheless evinced the common characteristic of it’s planner seeming to know exactly where every security junction box, trip, and camera were. The suspects in each incident were never caught on any of the very complex security systems’cameras. Whoever was involved seemed to know the blueprint for every system and its weaknesses.

Tossing the other sixteen cases aside, Graham loaded the eleven in his briefcase and called down to the garage to have his car ready.

It’s time to have a look around at some of Edge’s old haunts.

Chapter 35: In Dim Light

When the bitter solution finally began to wear off, Lex opened his eyes and was hit with a strong wave of nausea as he struggled to sit up. The task was made only marginally more difficult for the fact that his wrists were tightly bound with a rope running up to a rail about three or four feet from the floor then back down to a rope that bound his ankles. Turning so that the rope ran up over his shoulder with his back against the wall, Lex was finally able to sit up and extend his legs slightly.

Looking around, he could barely see with only a little grey light showing down from a dirty-gray window. Although incredibly dim, the light was strong enough for him to see Clark tied close by. But, unlike Lex, Clark wouldn’t be able to set up because whoever had tied him had taken extra measures to be certain that Clark couldn’t escape—tying Clark’s arms beneath him with a rope wrapping tightly around his waist to keep them in place. Then, a second rope binding Clark tightly above the knees ran upward to bind Clark’s ankles together and tie them to the bar a few inches from Lex’s head. Watching Clark begin to stir, Lex was hit with another wave of nausea and before he could control it was doubled over vomiting between them. Beside him, Clark groaned, rolled toward him, and asked weakly, “Dad, are you okay?”

The effort it took to ask the short question left Clark panting, as Lex took several seconds to recover from the dry heaves that followed before answering, “No, Clark it’s Lex.”

“Lex?”

When Clark turned toward him, even in the dim light, Lex could see that something didn’t look right in Clark’s eyes. There was a troubling vagueness in his stare… some lack of recognition that could have come from the earlier blow, from whatever drug was used, or from Clark’s illness before that.

Inexplicably, Clark asked, “Lex, I don’t understand… why are you here? Where’s my dad?”

Forcing a calm, casual tone into his voice, Lex responded, “Clark, it’s all right, your mom and dad are back at home.”

“Oh, Ok” Clark answered as if finding himself tied upside down were an everyday occurrence.

“Clark, what do you remember?”

Clark started unevenly, his voice rough with rapidly falling tears, “I thought you were off on your honeymoon, and…” Clark’s voice broke in confusion as he asked again “Where is my dad?” as if Lex hadn’t answered the first time.

Christ! Lex thought to himself. This is the last thing we needed. Trying to control his frustration, Lex spoke as soothingly as he could when he answered, “He and your mom are at home waiting for you. Can you tell me the last thing you remember?”

Before he answered, Clark’s face contorted for several seconds, then gasping, Clark burst out, “Oh God…” and became sick adding his stomach contents to the puddle between them.

Unlike Lex’s sick spell, though, Clark’s gagging lasted for nearly forty minutes while wave after wave of dry heaves racked his body once his stomach contents were ejected. Finally, too exhausted even to turn his head, Clark gasped, “I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay. It hit me like that too,” Lex smiled softly, as he lied to his friend. It was not okay by any stretch of the imagination that Lex could contrive. Clark was in serious trouble and it looked like Lex would have to be the one to come up with the miracle this time.

When Clark didn’t respond after several seconds, Lex worked the rope on his wrists high enough over the bar that he could reach over to touch Clark’s shoulder with his foot. Several nudges were enough to convince Lex that Clark was either asleep again or unconscious. Finally, looking around the room as he worked on the knots at his wrists, Lex tried to figure out where he could find a miracle to pull out of his hat.

Chapter 34: Inquiries

Chloe slapped the phone shut, growling in frustration; Nothing… I’ve followed every lead I can think of… even the ones I think are long shots and there’s nothing.”

Lana quietly replaced Chloe’s fourth espresso with a fifth and joined her at the table.

“You’ll find something. I’m sure of it.” Lana offered confidently. “Look how many mysteries you have already solved.”

Shaking her head remorsefully, Chloe caught Lana’s eyes as she answered, “Yes, but never Clark’s. No. I’m … just plain tapped out here. His emails are clean. There weren’t any calls to or from his cell. The Torch’s phone shows nothing during that time.”

Tossing back the espresso as though it was a jolt of scotch, Chloe grimaced and slammed the little cup to the table with a gusty sigh.

“Can you think of anything else that might have happened? Anything at all? From that morning or the weekend before?” Chloe demanded, even though she knew Lana probably wasn’t holding anything back from her.

“No, I’ve tried since last night, but I can’t remember anything out of the ordinary happening at all… until Clark’s mom called.” Chloe nodded in resignation. She hadn’t really expected anything else, and hated feeling at loose ends… like she had missed something important.

“Damn it! I don’t even know the right questions to ask. If he didn’t do anything or say anything out of the ordinary, then how are we supposed to figure this out?”

“Well…” Lana started hesitantly.

“What?” Chloe’s voice rose as she asked, “What is it?”

“It’s just that…” Lana mumbled, “Well, it didn’t make any sense.”

“What is it? Chloe asked again impatiently. “Did he say something at Lex’s? For heaven’s sake, Lana spill it. I won’t tell anyone.”

“I only saw him for a few minutes… but he did say something odd… and had a panic attack after saying it.”

Masking her exasperation, Chloe stared at Lana for several seconds before she was sure that she could control her voice well enough to ask: “Why didn’t you tell me? What did he say?”

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Chapter 33: Visitors

Leaving Clark at bottom of the stairs, Lex waved him into the library and walked down the hall toward the kitchen. After a moment, Clark’s rustling announced that he had settled in.

“Clark? Feel like something to eat?”

As he finished the question, the rustling immediately stopped and Lex thought he heard a noncommittal grunt.

Well, that certainly doesn’t preclude me from setting up a light fruit and cheese platter.

“Feel like the stravecchio, some citrus, and possibly some salmon?” Lex asked trying to tempt Clark’s appetite. After several seconds, when Clark still didn’t answer, Lex set down the orange he had been peeling and stepped out of the kitchen down the hall.

Just inside the library doorway, Clark was on his knees, clutching the doorframe as he swayed unevenly back and forth. Lex ran down the hall just in time to barely catch Clark as he pitched forward. Lifting him back to his feet, Lex tried to help his friend stagger back toward a couch, but Clark tried to push him away strangling, “No, Lex,...”

Before he could finish his warning, Clark surprised Lex by pulling him down and forward, forcing Lex to double over. Just before he fell into the couch, Lex felt the force of something swing over his shoulders— only narrowly missing the back of his skull—but striking Clark full force and dropping him right on top of Lex.

As Lex struggled to scramble out from under Clark’s chest, he heard someone yell from behind him, “You idiot, grab him, get him up, and hold his head back.”

As ordered, rough hands grabbed Lex’s shoulders and arms, pulled him up, forced his head back and gripped his forehead and chin pulling his mouth open. Over the sound of his struggling to free himself, Lex could hear water being poured into a glass followed by the sharp sound of metal ringing against glass as it stirred. His struggle to break free was futile though: within seconds, practiced hands pinched his nose shut and poured a thin watery solution directly into his throat triggering his gag reflex as the first gush of solution hit the back of his throat. Filling his throat and mouth, the solution blocked his breathing until his reflexes took over and forced him to gulp for the deprived air—swallowing as he did. Enraged by their success, Lex struggled against his captors, breaking free long enough to spit out the little bit remaining in his mouth and find Clark on the couch.

His first sight of Clark, after breaking away, was frightening: Clark lay unnaturally still just as he had fallen and the force of a blow left a swiftly bleeding cut across his temple. His face was ash gray and nearby veins throbbed rapidly to supply the wound. Looking at the size, depth, and location of the cut, Lex had a very real concern that Clark could suffer permanent damage from the blow. But, before he could grab something to staunch the blood flow, Lex felt his legs drop out from under him and his strength quickly ebb. In moments, they were literally stepping over him to carry Clark out. As his vision and hearing started to fade, Lex heard brief snatches of their conversations.

“What about this one?” Someone’s toe nudged him.

“Leave him, it’s Kal … baggage”.

“You’ve … crazy… him … ransom or caveman’s”

“Caymans … idiot …account… in… islands.”

“Doesn’t matter, just let’s…” Whatever else might have been said, Lex didn’t hear as the solution took complete control of his senses and shut them down.

Chapter 32: Shock

Before Lex eyes, Clark practically fell apart.

“Everything… th… summer… you… know… every…” Clark broke off as one gasp turned into several and shaking hands clutched his throat trying to breath. The blood seemed to drain away from his face as he slid from the chair to his knees. Just before his eyes snapped shut and thick streams of tears poured down his cheeks, Lex caught glimpses of self-loathing and terror.

And, Lex had chastised Lana for shaking Clark up?

“Clark!” Lex snapped harshly, “Clark, you have to stop this. Listen to me.” But, Clark seemed oblivious.

It was almost to cliché, but the only thing Lex could think of to break Clark’s panic was a sharp slap. When the first, lighter blow made no impression, Lex immediately followed it up with a stronger slap. Then another one-- harder still, without response. Then a fourth. Finally, Lex backhanded Clark hard enough to jar his own shoulder. Cupping a hand under Clark’s chin, he waited for some sign that Clark was coming out of the strange panic attack.

Thirty seconds had passed, and Lex was lifting his free hand to deliver another harder blow when he noticed Clark’s breathing even out. But, to his surprise, that was the only indication Clark gave that the impending blow was unnecessary. Instead, of opening his eyes, Clark seemed to barely lift his chin from Lex’s cupped hand, moving further into the path of the next expected blow. Clark was even trying not to steel himself to take the blow, but to be as open and vulnerable to the anticipated strike, as possible.

He want’s to be punished.

That much was obvious, and while Lex immediately understood how he could use it to his advantage, he had no intention of ultimately complying with that desire. Remembering the small nurse’s comments, Lex dropped his hand –unsurprised to catch a fleeting look of anxiety shade Clark’s features as his palm landed gently on the young man’s cheek.

The strike Clark had been expecting came as a solid, but gentle pat on his cheek followed by Lex’s intentionally weary command: “Get dressed, Clark. This isn’t the place to deal with this.”

As Clark rose obediently and reached for the remainder of his clothes, stripped of his earlier angst and anger, Lex enjoyed one of those rare moments when the experience of his own angst-ridden and rebellious teen years (and his familiarity with panicking, self-abusing, not infrequently drugged out teens) was coming in handy. When he turned back, Clark had finished and was waiting timidly for his next order.

“We’ll stop so you can apologize to Martha and Jonathon...” catching another almost panicked look, Lex quickly finished, “for this morning’s behavior. Then, we’ll leave for the castle. They dropped off some things last night. But, if there is anything else you need, I can send for it.” Catching Clark’s elbow, he ushered him toward the door… or would have if Clark hadn’t stopped to stare at him in shock.

“What?”

“Y-ou… you… st-ill want me to come over?” It occurred to Lex that Clark clearly couldn’t reconcile the thought that Lex would still want him in the mansion with what he knew about summer excursion. Unwilling to let Clark’s obedience slip away so easily, however, Lex forced a callous note into his response: “At least until we get this sorted out.”

The brusqueness of his response and it’s underlying meaning to the young man reasserted his hold over Clark, who allowed himself to be escorted out of his hospital room, briefly past his parents, then to the sports car waiting in the hospital’s parking lot.

Monday, June 20, 2005

What Matters

What matters.
Rating: Pg13, Angst, Hurt/comfort
Summary: After the homecoming, only two people really dwelled on who the scarecrow had been.

What matters.

Clark could feel Lex watching him carefully for weeks afterward, but that was okay. He understood Lex and knew that as long as he made sure that it didn't matter, Lex wouldn't say anything to any one.

So, it didn't matter, it couldn't matter, it wouldn't matter. He'd make sure of it. It wouldn't matter, and not just because of Lex but the others also. Because if it mattered and the others said something... or worse said nothing... then... well, he didn't know what then, but it would be bad. That much he was certain of-- it would be the end of everything as he knew it. But, only if he let it matter.

So, when the his cup of cocoa shattered in his hand after he watched Lana kissing Whitney, he swallowed his pride, ignored the jibes and smirks of the others around him, and told himself that it didn't matter.

When Whitney made his half-hearted apology attempt, Clark brushed him off swearing under his breath that it was nothing and it wouldn't matter.

When the football team started perching at the school's front entry, he slipped around to the door by the cafeteria and told Chloe and Pete that it was just because the side door was closer to his locker. Not that it mattered.

When he missed the bus and walked home, he took rural route 75... the one that didn't pass by Reilly field because it gave him a great view of the lake on his way home. And, a nice view was all that mattered when you were going to be walking an extra thirty minutes anyhow.

When he woke up chilled and sweating, unable to get back to sleep, he wrapped the blankets tighter around his shoulders, pulled out his text book and studied because a few hours more or less of sleep wouldn't matter in the long run.

***

Lex tried to be discreet about his surveillance of Clark, but he was well aware that Clark knew he was being watched. Often, when he noticed Lex's presence, Clark would adopt his best I'm-fine-thank-you smile though it was clearly forced, and straighten up or even wave just to let Lex know that things were going on just like normal. While Lex appreciated the attempt, he was all to aware that matters were never that simple.

Nevertheless, he felt it was ultimately Clark's decision to discuss with anyone else and would not interfere unless it became obvious that he needed to take matters into his own hands.

So, while he didn't ignore it when Clark flinched away from Whitney breaking a coffee mug in the process, Lex held his tongue.

When Clark gave Whitney the well-deserved brush off, he almost but didn't cheer because it soon became apparent that Clark was going to let the incident slide and wasn't even going to mention it to Lana when it would have been definitely in his best interests to do so.

But, when he watched Clark slip out the high school’s side entrance to avoid the jock convention prowling the front gates and head out the old truck road, Lex began to rethink his decision.

When Clark started avoiding the main highway, taking the back road that added almost twice the distance to his walk home, Lex started to patrol the truck route when ever his schedule allowed in hopes getting they would have a chance to speak privately.

Finally, when he escorted Clark home after finding him asleep in the middle of the road, he waited on the porch until the Kents settled their son into his room and surprised them with a quiet declaration on their return: “We have some matters to discuss.”

***

Form his bed, Clark listened to their discussion, waiting listlessly for the end of everything as he knew it. But, as he drifted off to sleep, the change he was waiting for was replaced with a realization that had been building daily since Lex had taken him down from the cross in Reilly field.

When it mattered most, he would have his family to turn to… his family to watch out for him… his family and Lex.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Inner Demons: WIP


Title: Inner Demons... WIP
Genre:Pre-Clex,PG 13 angst
Summary: Who's Clark's Daddy? Angst, misdirection, and half-truths draw the boys closer.


Table of Contents

Synopsis


Chapter 1: Lost


Chapter 2: Waiting


Chapter 3: Discovery


Chapter 4: Rushing Inward


Chapter 5: Apprehensions


Chapter 6: Onslaught


Chapter 7: Treatments


Chapter 8: Reunion


Chapter 9: Half truthes


Chapter 10: Outcasts


Chapter 11: Impact


Chapter 12: Decisions


Chapter 13: Routines


Chapter 14: Habits


Chapter 15: Complications


Chapter 16: Hunches


Chapter 17: Gossamer Leads


Chapter 18: Erroneous Conclusions


Chapter 19: Misgivings


Chapter 20: Tug of War


Chapter 20: Connections


Chapter 21: Depression


Chapter 22: Reconnaissance


Chapter 23: Tigger


Chapter 24: Caution


Chapter 25:Observations


Chapter 26: Reacting

.

Chapter 27: Delivery


Chapter 28: Confrontation


Chapter 29: Confessions


Chapter 30: Challenges


Chapter 31: Bluffs


Chapter 32: Shock


Chapter 33: Visitors


Chapter 34: Inquiries

Chapter 35: In Dim Light

Chapter 36: Speculations

Chapter 37: Chances

Chapter 38: Confidences

Chapter 39: Confronting Truths

Chapter 40: Plans

Chapter 41: Recognition

Chapter 42: Mannipulations


Friday, June 17, 2005


06-16-05 Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Do You Love Me?


06-14-05 Posted by Hello
Do You Love Me? (3.53 MB)
Reloaded (3.96MB)
Rating: PG 13, AU, Romance with a twist
Summary: Ever wonder why Clark has trust issues?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Like Humans Do


What Humans Do Reloaded 7/5/05 Posted by Hello

(3.13 Mb-(low quality) Due to difficulties uploading the 7Mb high-quality version, I have temporarily posted this lower quality zip file but will post the higher quality file ASAP.)

Rating: PG 13, AU, Romance with a twist

Summary: What Clark would do for Lex's Love or

to prove himself Lex's equal.

Notes: My first attempt at a Fanfic Vid.

The file is being hosted by Megaupload.com, through a time/hit sensitive counter that will expire after 30 days of non-use. If the link has expired, drop me a comment: I will happily reload it.

Like Humans Do

Title: Like Human's Do (Vid) (7.18 Mb)
Rating: Pg13, Au, Romance with a twist.
Summary: My first attempt at a fan fiction Vid.
What Clark would do for Lex's love
(to become Lex's equal).
The vid is posted through a timed/hit counted link to yousendit.com and will expire in 7 days (from 06/13/05) or 25 hits whichever comes first.
If the link has expired please drop me a comment; I will happily reload it and post the new link.

As always feed back is welcomed; but particularly for this first attempt I'm eager to hear what I did well and where I dropped the ball. Thanks.
Diane