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.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow nice i really really like

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Rivana said...

Damn, you are one great author. Gotta head for the sequel now. Btw I'm really impressed with the thought you've put into Lex's escape plan, I think I'll keep that in mind for you never know when... ;-)

3:28 PM  

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