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.”

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