Tuesday, June 21, 2005

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.

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