Smallville: Infinite Possibilities - Episode Six: Identity
by Henry Jones Jr
"It was prophesied that Naman would fall from the skies in a rain of fire. He will have the strength of ten men and shoot fire from his eyes."
Twenty feet below ground, a faded blue figure of a man painted on the walls of the cave, with a zig-zag down his chest, appeared to be holding up ten other persons standing on one-another's shoulders in a pyramid. The white outline of another man lay on the back of a bird, or a ship, streaming fire behind it. A short distance away, the blue man climbed a hill, reaching for a white spiral, possibly representing the sun.
Elsewhere on the rough walls, the same blue man with the zig-zag and a phallic-shaped hat, shot yellow dashes from his eyes, the lines ending in red-orange flames. Beneath another spiral sun, the phallic-shaped hat and the blue man were separate, and it was the hat that had the zig-zag on it, not the man.
"Matu," Lex Luthor said, aiming his headlamp at the hat.
Clark Kent shined his flashlight over the cave walls. Hundreds more pictographs in aged colors of blue, red, orange, yellow, purple, black and white painted the craggy surface. Native American stories etched indelibly on the walls. A girl with horns held an object between her hands, made up of white lines and a blue square tipped on its point. An insect or a lizard with pincers and a zig-zag on its head curved over the surface of a broken rock face. Painted high on the wall, the blue man with the zig-zag and the hat had grown a second purple head shaped like a sharp-toothed dinosaur.
The man-made cave was dark and dry, the ground uneven beneath Clark's feet. He followed the right path of a fork in the cavern. His flashlight played on more pictographs of the same blue man with the zig-zag and hat, interspersed with symbols that looked familiar. He entered another wide chamber and halted so abruptly that Lex bumped into his back.
Clark barely heard Lex's murmured apology as he stared at the wall. Like a spiderweb, concentric circles and lines painted in black covered almost the entire rock face. Symbols Clark realized he knew - made of up dots, dashes, triangles, circles, and curving lines - were written in the spaces between the concentric circles. A perfect octagonal shape was cut into the center of the spiderweb of symbols - the same shape as the key to his spaceship.
Clark touched the octagonal cutout, brushing dirt from the bottom edge. He noticed his hand trembled and he dropped it to his side, clenching his fingers into a fist.
"That's a message to Naman," Lex said. The light on his spelunker's band blinded Clark briefly as Lex looked at him. "What does it say?"
"I don't know." Clark swallowed the lump of trepidation lodged in his throat. Written on the walls wasn't just a fanciful Kawatche legend that Lex associated with Clark, told to him with great enthusiasm and awe earlier in the evening, after Kyle Tippet and Eric Summers had left.
"But it is a message for you, right?" Lex said. Ink still marred his cheek from earlier and he'd picked up a grease stain across the bridge of his nose.
"Yes." Clark knew he should be excited. The wall in front of him might solve questions about his origins and abilities. But faced with the answers, he suddenly didn't want to know, because what if it explained why he was unwanted? What if it was a warning that he was dangerous, or diseased?
Lex stepped forward and peered closely at the octagonal hole. Clark's flashlight shone on Lex's bright green hat and the back of his heavy canvas coveralls. "I think something goes in this hole. Maybe that's why you can't read the message, because you're missing a piece."
Clark didn't want to be in the caves any longer. "Come on. I've seen enough."
Pivoting on his heel, he took the fork leading back to the main chamber. His flashlight cut through the blackness of the cave. Another flashlight clicked on abruptly, pinning him with its high beam. Clark stopped in his tracks, threw up his arm, and shielded his eyes with an out-turned hand.
"You are trespassing, young man. I must ask you to leave."
"Joseph!" Lex appeared suddenly from the other fork, which must have also connected to the second chamber. "It's Naman! I found Naman!"
The powerful flashlight lowered and Clark was able to see the elderly man holding it. Lex's headlamp shined on the gray hair tied in braids hanging on either side of a weathered, Native American face.
"Lilamelo, you should not be down here in this weather," Joseph scolded.
"But Joseph, it's Naman." Lex gestured at Clark. "The legend is true."
Clark began regretting that he had told Lex the truth, since he seemed to want to blab it in one way or another to everybody, including Kyle, Eric, and now this Joseph person. "Lex..."
Joseph looked Clark over from head to toe and then held out his hand. "I'm Joseph Willowbrook, Chief of the Kawatche tribe."
"Clark Kent." Clark shook the proffered hand. "How did you know we were down here?"
"Sensor alarms." Joseph shined his flashlight on the wall near the exit path. The light picked up the red-tinted glass mounted on a small box, a power line disappearing beneath the ground. "Children have a tendency to host parties in here, which is dangerous not only for them but for the legends painted on the walls."
"The legend of Naman. Lex has been telling me about it," Clark said. "He thinks that I am this Naman person."
"You are," Lex stated firmly, headlamp blinding Clark again. Clark shielded his eyes.
"Here, let me turn on the lights." Joseph walked out of the chamber and a few moments later, a string of dangling bulbs illuminated the cave.
The fading pictographs on the craggy walls became much more vivid in full light. Naman and Matu were conjoined in all but two paintings, the one showing Matu as a separate entity and the one with Naman on the ship, streaming towards the ground.
"Lex, don't tell Mr. Willowbrook that I'm Naman," Clark stressed quietly, as he clicked off his flashlight.
"Why?" Lex stuffed his headlamp into his pocket.
"It's a secret, remember," Clark said. "I don't want anyone knowing that I'm not human."
"Joseph won't tell."
It was beyond Clark how Lex had retained his naive faith in people in the face of being abandoned. "How do you know Mr. Willowbrook?"
"Lilamelo set off the sensors years ago, just like today," Joseph answered for Lex, as he returned to the main chamber. The colors of his winter jacket matched the colors on the walls.
"It means Little Flame Lost in Kawatche," Joseph explained. "Lilamelo was still a boy when he came upon the caves. He was immediately fascinated by the legend, having survived the rain of fire and having seen the effects of the green stones the visitor from the stars brought with him." He gave Lex a fond smile. "Lilamelo loves solving puzzles."
Lex ducked his head bashfully, green pom-pom bobbing, and shoved his hands in his pockets.
Joseph shifted his wizened gaze to Clark. "And apparently he has successfully solved the mystery of Naman."
Clark's shoulders tensed beneath his red winter coat. "I'm not Naman."
"Lilamelo does not have a serpent's tongue," Joseph said, "but I understand your hesitation."
The sharp sound of a foot scraping against rock caught Clark's attention. He looked past Joseph towards the clear path out of the chamber. Squinting slightly, he triggered his x-ray vision and saw a skeleton standing just out of sight. "Someone's listening."
"It is probably my granddaughter." Joseph turned. "Kyla, is that you?"
"Yes, Grandfather." A tall, athletic Native American girl, around Clark's age, came into view. Her long, dark hair hung in a single braid over her shoulder, her tracksuit not hiding her curves. Deep brown eyes examined Clark intently. Nothing indicated how much she'd overheard. "Hello."
"Hi," Clark said, distracted as Lex skittered behind him.
"Kyla, will you fetch my book on the Kawatche from the truck for Mr. Kent?" Joseph said.
Kyla nodded and left the chamber. Joseph turned to Clark again. "My book details the legends associated with the cave, although I am certain Lilamelo could recite the passages word for word."
Clark didn't need to glance over his shoulder to know Lex was blushing.
"However, if you have questions, please feel free to contact me. My address and phone number are listed in the phone book."
"Um, thanks," Clark said.
Joseph shifted his attention to Lex, asking after his health and other benign matters. Clark studied the pictograph of the separate Naman and Matu, wondering if the symbiote theory had, indeed, been correct. What was detailed on the cave wall in the other chamber was definitely of alien origin.
Kyla returned with the book, walking directly over to Clark. Out of the corner of his eye, Clark saw Lex move so Joseph stood between him and Kyla. Clark took the book from her. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." Kyla smiled. "I'm from Topeka, but I'm staying at my grandfather's this week, in case you'd like a more in-depth tour of the cave."
"I might take you up on that some night," Clark flirted back. It never hurt to bolster his closet door, especially since she'd only be around for a short time. He glanced over at Joseph and Lex. "Lex, are you ready to go?"
"Do not be a stranger, Lilamelo," Joseph said. "Your company is a breath of fresh air to an old man like me."
Lex ducked his head at the chiding. "Okay."
"It was nice meeting you Mr. Willowbrook." Clark shook his hand again and then winked at Kyla before following Lex out of the cave.
Clark reached back and unbuckled himself, as the skateboard's motor puttered into silence. He followed Lex through the hinged sewer grate into the sub-basement room of the KentCorp factory, where Lex made his home. Lex removed his headlamp, hat and gloves, setting them on one of two workbenches pushed against the walls. A freestanding work-lamp threw light against the cement walls twenty-five feet below ground. The continuous hum of the HVAC machinery coming through the grate overhead kept anyone from hearing that someone lived in the sub-basement of the plant. It was a good thing, because Clark's voice rose when he got mad.
"Lex, look at me." Clark waited until Lex turned to light into him. "Why did you tell Willowbrook that I was Naman?!"
Lex blinked in surprise at the verbal attack. "You are Naman."
"That's not what I mean." Clark slapped the Kawatche book on the workbench. "I told you my origins are to be kept secret, and you've run off at the mouth twice in less than six hours!"
Lex dropped his gaze and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm sorry."
"Being sorry's not good enough," Clark said. "I want you to promise me that you'll never tell anyone that I'm Naman, or an alien, or in any other way imply that I'm not human."
"I promise," Lex whispered, staring at his feet.
"I'm trusting you with my life, Lex, and my parents' lives. You can't say anything, even if you have to lie." Clark didn't think Lex even knew how to lie, but he'd learn. It was too important for him not to learn, for Clark's parents' safety and Lex's own. "God, Lex, do you understand what could happen if the wrong person found out? I'm not going to become an X-File."
"What's an x-file?" Lex said, raising his chin to look at Clark.
"It's from a television show, which, of course, you've never seen." Clark shoved his fingers through his hair. "Do you even understand that some people aren't nice or trustworthy? That there are those out there who like to hurt others for fun?"
"I'm not an idiot," Lex said.
"No, but you are ignorant," Clark stated bluntly. "You've spent most of your life apart from society. You barely interact with people even in Smallville, much less the rest of the world. Being so sheltered, you don't get that if the wrong people heard you say I wasn't human, they'd kill my parents and gut me like one of your mutant animal dissections. And if you were at the farm when they came, they'd murder you, too."
Lex's face drained of color, becoming as gray as the cement walls. The ink on his cheek and grease across his nose stood out vividly against his pallor. Clark wanted immediately to comfort him, but Lex needed to know how serious it was to keep Clark's heritage secret.
"Do you promise not to say anything to anyone?" Clark pressed.
Lex nodded jerkily, eyes bright with fear.
"Good." Clark picked up the Kawatche book. "I'll probably see you tomorrow at the farm."
"Bye," Lex whispered.
Clark climbed the metal ladder and exited into the HVAC room. Twenty-five feet below, Lex had sat down on the footlocker at the end of the nest of blankets that made up his bed. His arms were wrapped around himself, his matted orange-red tuft of hair and the visible streaks of ink and grease on his face making him appear very young. Clark wanted to climb back down and hold him close. He wanted to kiss Lex tenderly and promise everything would be all right.
He shut the grate and went home.
Clark had only the chance to speed-read through the Kawatche book that night. His parents had wanted to run a battery of tests regarding his restored abilities. After what had happened when Eric obtained his invulnerability - becoming sick and bleeding from his nose and ears - Clark wanted the reassurance everything was back to normal, as well.
"Scratch out virus," Martha told Jonathan. She glanced at the time counter in her hand, as Clark shifted on the edge of the metal lab table. He wore only his boxers, but didn't feel cold in the greenhouse annex lab. "A virus duplicates, not transfers."
Jonathan crossed off a line in the notebook. "And we know now that an internal factor isn't the source, or the transfer wouldn't have been able to happen at all."
"Plus, Eric received Clark's vulnerability to the meteorites," Martha said. "That means that Clark's abilities aren't meteorite-induced, either, or Eric wouldn't have had any reactions to the meteorites, since he didn't have any prior to the transfer, whereas Clark did."
"So, Lex's mutualistic symbiote theory might be a correct hypothesis," Jonathan said. "And that's what those cave paintings implied, right, Clark?"
Clark nodded and pointed at the book next to Jonathan on the table. He held up various finger combinations and pointed at the book again.
Jonathan shook his head and looked at his wife. "Martha?"
"All right. We're done, Clark," Martha said, stopping her time counter.
Clark released the breath he'd been holding for the past ten minutes. "Page one-oh-four. That's supposedly a picture of Naman and Matu separated. They're layered together in all the other pictures."
"Do you think it's accurate?" Jonathan asked, thumbing to the page indicated in Joseph Willowbrook's book.
"I don't know." Clark hopped off the table and reached for his jeans. "The symbols on the cave walls definitely match those in my ship. I checked."
"I suppose we could lease a heat or spectral imager of some sort. An external symbiote should be visible that way," Martha said, putting away her measuring instruments.
"Just let me know where and when, Mom." Clark threw his shirt over his shoulder and took the book from Jonathan. "I'm hoping Willowbrook will shed more light on things."
"Do you think you can trust him?" Martha asked with concern.
"I didn't verify Lex's assertion that I was Naman, if it's even the truth," Clark said. "I guess we'll have to wait and see."
"We trust you, Clark, but was it really wise to tell Lex to begin with?" Jonathan said.
"Yes," Clark replied without hesitation. He really didn't regret telling Lex in spite of Lex's earlier divulgence. His lips quirked. "He'll probably know more about me than I do by the end of the week."
"Just be careful, son." Jonathan rose and clapped his hand on Clark's shoulder. "Lex is already considered an oddity by this town. We don't want him to get locked up for proclaiming that aliens have landed."
Thursday morning, Clark sat at his desk in his first period classroom, reading Willowbrook's book. He'd run at full speed to school simply because he could, gleeful at the loud crack of the sound barrier when he'd broken it. Of course, he'd ended up at school a half-hour early and, after fixing his wind-blown hair, spent the time before the bell perusing the Kawatche book.
The Kawatche cave paintings prophesied the coming of Naman, how he could be identified, and what he would do. Apparently, Naman, with the help of the Bringer of Darkness, Seget, represented by the dinosaur-like head in the two-headed pictograph, would balance the world's good and evil. Naman was also destined to be in a relationship with the horned girl, who held a bracelet between her hands, according to the book. The symbols on the walls that matched Clark's ship were a message to Naman from the first alien to visit the area.
Clark's parents had taught him that he controlled his own future by his choices and that fate was just an excuse to skirt responsibility. Clark agreed with them and he ignored the prophecy portion of the Kawatche legend and stuck with the measurable facts.
Fact one: There had been other aliens on earth.
Fact two: Those aliens were the same species as Clark, evidenced by the identical symbols on the wall and on Clark's ship.
Fact three: The prior aliens had the same abilities as Clark.
Fact four: Humans knew of the alien visitors and their abilities; at least, the Kawatche did.
Fact five: The prior aliens thought there would be future visitors to earth and had left messages for them. Either that, or had left intergalactic graffiti.
The facts made Clark suddenly feel somewhat better about himself. He didn't know why his biological parents threw him out, but obviously his landing on earth wasn't random chance.
A boisterous group of students filtered into the classroom, followed by a very subdued Lana Lang. Clark closed his book as Lana took her seat. Her smile for him was not as vivacious as usual.
"You look much better," Lana said, hooking her purse on the back of her chair.
"Apparently, I'm allergic to my mother's cooking, which isn't surprising. I've known for years she's been trying to poison us," Clark said with a lopsided grin.
"I think you've mentioned that she isn't the best cook," Lana said. "I'm glad you're okay."
"Thanks." Clark studied her with concern. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Lana brushed her hair over her shoulder and opened her books for class.
Clark glanced at the clock. There were still eight minutes before the bell. He should probably review his history reading-
"You're adopted, right?"
Clark jerked his gaze to Lana. She half-smiled. "Small town, big mouths."
"Yes, I am." Clark shifted sideways in his chair, facing Lana, and braced his forearms on his knees. "Any reason you asked?"
"Do you ever wonder about your parents? Your biological ones, I mean," Lana asked.
"Of course. All adopted kids do."
"So, you'd try and find them if you could?"
"Yes, but only to ask them why they got rid of me. The Kents are my real parents," Clark replied. He tilted his head slightly, putting pieces together in his mind. "Do you think you're adopted? Is that why you're asking?"
Lana pressed her lips together a moment, glanced around, and lowered her voice. "My mom had an affair. Lewis Lang isn't my father."
"Ah, Lana, I'm sorry." Clark squeezed her shoulder comfortingly. "How did you find out?"
"I was going through some old things of my mom's and found pictures." Lana's forehead creased with unhappiness. "I confronted Aunt Nell and she confirmed it. She's known all along that my dad wasn't my real father."
"That doesn't make Lewis any less your dad," Clark said.
"But how much of me is him? How much is my biological father?"
"How much of you is your Aunt Nell?" Clark said pointedly. "She's the person who raised you."
"She also says I act a lot like my mom," Lana returned.
"Do you want me to agree with you or reassure you?" Clark said somewhat shortly.
Lana sighed. "I want to forget I ever learned the truth."
The bell rang, signaling the start of first period. Clark straightened his desk as Mr. Price came into the classroom.
Lana's predicament made Clark think of his own biological parents. Lana was right to question how much of herself came from her biological father. His values and beliefs came from the Kents, but his intense libido and rage were not learned behaviors. Nature versus nurture: an age-old argument that wasn't going to be solved in History class.
Clark opened his textbook and turned his attention to the lesson.
Clark ignored the suited FBI agents canvassing the corridors for Eric Summers, as he made his way to the cafeteria. A candy bar wouldn't cut it for lunch. Thankfully, it was pizza, a relatively edible school meal.
While waiting in line, he saw Jodi Melville sitting with her friends at a table. He frowned, and not because guys were obviously flirting with Pete's girlfriend. Jodi looked like she'd lost twenty pounds since he'd seen her last.
"Unfair," Pete Ross complained when Clark carried a pyramidic tray full of square pizza slices into the Torch office. "If I eat that, I'll puke."
"Who said I'd share?" Clark sat at the desk on the side of the room. "Have you seen Jodi?"
"Yeah. She's looking hot today," Pete said.
"Actually, I think she's looking sick," Clark said. "She's lost a lot of weight fast."
"It's that veggie-shake diet she's on," Pete told him. "She has it twice a day. I think she looks great."
"Hmm." Clark didn't like it. Jodi had lost too much weight too fast for it to be a healthy diet, and she was getting too much positive reinforcement to realize it was unhealthy to hurt her body like that.
"I should've stayed home. I hate being sick," Pete said, watching as Clark used a wad of paper towels to soak up some of the pizza grease. The cell phone by his elbow rang and he answered. "Yeah?" He looked at Clark. "Chloe says she hates being sick, too, and that it's all your fault."
Clark waved negligently as he wolfed his pizza, slurping up the excess sauce. He was starving.
"I think I may puke just watching you, Clark," Pete said. Chloe said something over the phone and Pete made a face. "Yeah, that makes me want to look... Okay, okay! Hold on."
Pete shifted his chair in front of a computer terminal and moved the mouse. "All right. E-mail open. Which one do I want?" he asked Chloe. He clicked the mouse and scanned the computer screen. "Why are you receiving e-mails about dead deer?"
Clark gulped down half his Mountain Dew and continued stuffing his face, as he listened to the one-sided conversation.
"You want us to go take pictures of the dead deer?" Pete lowered the cell phone and looked over at Clark with disbelief. "She wants us to go take pictures of a dead deer after school."
Clark gave him a thumbs-up, chomping on his pizza.
"Clark say you're insane," Pete said into the phone. Clark rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. We'll go and see the weird dead deer. Later."
Pete ended the call and stuck the cell phone in his pocket. "Even sick, Chloe never stops."
Clark swallowed. "She's an investigative reporter. It's in the blood. What's up with the deer?"
"Apparently, it has 'irregular injuries post-mortem,'" Pete read from the screen. "Chloe's contact at Animal Control e-mailed her about it."
"Did you drive? I got a ride today."
"Yeah, I have my car." Pete used the mouse. "Hey, do you know anything about that mutant Summers kid that went nuts? Wasn't he in all your nerd classes?"
"Chloe's the one who interviewed him," Clark hedged. "I only know what everyone else does."
"Man," Pete said, "what a time to get sick. I always miss the good Wall of Weird stuff."
Clark grinned. "Yeah, but you get the honor of taking pictures of a dead deer."
"You're right, Clark. This is prime Wall of Weird material," Pete said sarcastically, staring at the deer carcass on the stainless steel table. After school, Pete had driven them to Animal Control and they were allowed by Chloe's contact to see the dead deer. Counters and cabinets lined the room. Biohazard bags and transport equipment sat ready for use. The room, they'd been told, was used for euthanasia or to test animals for disease.
The deer on the table was very dead, and disgusting. Huge chunks of flesh were missing, mainly from its flanks and shoulders. A grille pattern on its side indicated a truck had struck the deer at some point. Animal Control listed a vehicle as the cause of death, but what had munched on the animal afterwards was why Clark and Pete were there.
Clark used Pete's cell phone to call Chloe while Pete started taking digital photographs.
"So, what's the verdict?" Chloe Sullivan said over the line.
"Something gnawed on Bambi after he got hit by a truck."
He peered closer at the parts bitten. "Yeah. Not too strange, unless you count the size of the chewed areas."
Chloe blew her nose and coughed. "Ugh. I hate being sick. How big are you talking?"
"It definitely wasn't done by vultures or crows. Pete's taking pictures."
"Hmm." Clark could hear her typing on a keyboard. "The Smallville Farmers Message Board says there've been a few wolf sightings this week. Just one wolf, not a pack, it looks like. The Habernackels and the Jacksons both lost animals."
"Grab a ruler, Clark," Pete said.
"You're thinking a wolf might be the cause?" Clark said to Chloe. He found a ruler in one of the drawers.
"It's possible. Wolves are scavengers when food is scarce," Chloe said.
Clark set the ruler against the edge of the bite mark so Pete could take measurement pictures. "I didn't think wolves were indigenous to this area."
"They're not." Chloe typed on her keyboard again. "Maybe there's a mystery here."
"I'm done," Pete said. "Let's get out of here before I yak."
"Gotta go, Chloe," Clark said.
"Have Pete send me the pictures when he gets home."
"Got it. Bye." Clark terminated the call and lobbed the cell phone to Pete. "Chloe wants the pictures right away."
Pete nodded, as the two headed out of Animal Control. "Do you think it was wolves?"
"I don't know," Clark said. "Chloe's contact wouldn't have e-mailed her if it was something as simple as that."
By the time Clark completed his homework and chores, dinner was burnt in the oven. Clark rolled his eyes and dumped the food in the compost heap. He then threw together several sub sandwiches, grabbed four bottles of Ty Nant and napkins, and carried the food on a tray to the greenhouse.
"Dinner," he announced, entering the annex lab. He wobbled, the bottles clinking, as a wave of weakness hit his knees.
Jonathan stood and scooped the pile of meteorite shards lying out into a metal box. He shut the lid and moved the box onto the back counter. Clark felt immediately better.
"Sorry, Clark," Jonathan said, taking off his lead-lined gloves and apron.
Martha and Lex, similarly attired in lead-lined protective gear, stopped their work, as Clark set the tray on the side counter. "You burned the chicken again, Mom," Clark said without censure.
Martha's face pursed. "I'd forgotten all about it."
"No harm done," Jonathan said. He washed his hands in the sink. "Clark managed to scrounge something so we won't starve."
"Help yourselves," Clark said. Martha and Lex shed their protective gear and Martha joined Jonathan at the sink. Lex didn't look at Clark as he took a sandwich and bottle of water. He retreated to the other side of the lab and sat at the far counter with his back to the room. Clark frowned.
"He's been withdrawn like that all day," Martha confided quietly, taking a bottle of water. "I think he's said five words in total since he got here this morning."
"Maybe you could talk to him, son," Jonathan said, wrapping a napkin around the end of a sub sandwich. "Find out what's wrong."
"I think I might have an idea." Clark took a sandwich, napkin, and water, and pulled a stool over beside Lex. Lex sat stiffly, not turning his head as Clark joined him. The strap of his overalls had fallen off his red and black flannel-clad shoulder. He picked at the top of the sub roll with dirty fingers, not eating.
"I slaved over making that sandwich. You should eat it," Clark said. He shifted on the stool closer to Lex and his nose twitched. Lex desperately needed a shower.
After a bit more picking, Lex broke off a piece and ate it. Dirt creased the corners of his mouth and gave him a mustache. By the black soil caught beneath his fingernails, Clark figured Lex must've been planting. Lex really should've washed his hands before eating.
"Mom says you've barely spoken all day," Clark said, instead of mentioning the state of Lex's hands. "I'm sorry if I upset you yesterday, but it was important that you understood. I don't want anyone getting hurt because of me, including you."
Lex didn't respond and went back to picking at his sandwich. Clark sighed silently.
The telephone rang and Clark looked over his shoulder as Jonathan answered the call.
"Kent Farm. Oh, hi, Tony," Jonathan said into the receiver, tugging on the cord stretching from the wall. "Uh-huh... Tomorrow?... Uh-huh... uh-huh... okay. I'll let him know. We'll see you in the morning."
"What did Tony want?" Martha asked, as Jonathan hung up.
"He's figured out a way to get Lex out of Rickman's contract," Jonathan answered. "Lex, we need to go to Metropolis tomorrow."
"Are you taking me home?"
Clark's insides twisted at the soft inquiry. Lex stared at Jonathan the same way he'd looked at Clark the first time he'd asked the question. A saddened silence hung in the room for a long moment before Jonathan broke it.
"Mr. Kaminski has set a court hearing in the morning that you need to be at, Lex. That's all."
Lex lowered his gaze. The stool squeaked on the tile floor as he rose and went over to where his outer clothing was piled. He began tugging on his coveralls.
"Lex, where are you going?" Martha said.
"To where I live." Lex stuffed his bare feet into his yellow firefighter boots. He pulled on his bright green hat. "Bye." He left hurriedly.
"Be here before six AM and wear something nice!" Jonathan called after Lex.
The greenhouse doors opened and closed in response.
Jonathan looked at Clark. "What was that about?"
Clark shrugged, though he worried his inner cheek. "The first time we met, he asked me the same think: if I was going to take him home."
"He does know his parents are gone?" Martha said.
"Yeah, he knows," Clark said. "But he's so... I don't know. He acts like he's still lost and waiting for someone to find him."
Martha and Jonathan exchanged a whole parenting conversation in a single look. "He found us," Martha said.
Jonathan nodded. "Best make sure the boy knows it."
Clark had no idea what his parents meant, but he inferred they wanted to reassure Lex. "Should I go get him?"
"Nah. Let him be. We'll see him in the morning," Jonathan said. "Speaking of, Clark, I think you should come to Metropolis with us."
"Sure. Any reason?" Clark said.
"If Rickman shows, it's best if you're there. We don't want a repeat of what happened last time."
Martha's brow creased. "You don't think Rickman would try to influence the Judge, do you?"
"I wouldn't put it past him," Jonathan said. "He went through a lot to get hold of our pesticide formula and make sure Lex was his."
Clark's expression darkened. "Don't worry. I won't let him try anything again."
Clark had left his parents in the greenhouse, Martha on the phone with Grandpa Clark, warning him about Rickman, despite Clark's assertion that he could take care of things. She'd said Rickman had developed a skin-contact type inhibitor and then began rattling off a chemical equation. His grandfather, Clark knew, would've believed her simply to get her to stop with the scientific jargon.
Clark heard tires on the gravel driveway and he rounded the side of the horse barn. He recognized the Willowbrook truck and smiled in welcome as Kyla hopped out of the vehicle. "Hey."
"Hi." Kyla's breath was visible in the cold January air and she hugged her arms as she approached. Clark was so happy not feeling the temperature any more. He escorted Kyla quickly into the barn and up to the loft.
"I was planning on calling you," Clark said, taking a seat on the couch.
Kyla took off her winter coat and sat right beside him. "I know. I thought I'd drop by anyway."
Clark liked aggressive women and the corner of his lips lifted in a pleased quirk.
Kyla reached boldly across Clark, brushing purposely against him, as she retrieved the Kawatche book from where it sat on the wooden arm of the soft. "Have you been reading this?"
"Yes." Clark's grin grew at her actions. "The Kawatche have a fascinating history."
"According to legend, a thousand years ago, a man came from the stars and fell in love with the mother of our people. Out of that forbidden affair, the Kawatche people were born." Kyla opened the book and slowly turned the pages. "He could not stay, but promised another would come in the future, called Naman, who would lead our people against the darkness in the world."
"It's a good story."
"It's not just a story." Kyla met his eyes directly. "But you already knew that."
"You were eavesdropping last night," Clark said. "It's not true. Lex's imagination was running wild."
Kyla smiled as if his denial amused her. "It's all right, Clark. When the green stones fell from the sky, the Kawatche changed in order to protect Naman. You are safe."
"Kyla, I'm not Naman."
"Destiny can't be denied," Kyla said. She held out her right arm and pulled up her sleeve. A silver and turquoise bracelet adorned her wrist. She removed it and gave it to Clark.
"That bracelet has been passed down in my family for generations." She opened a certain page in Willowbrook's book, to the cave painting of the horned woman. "It can't be coincidence that this very bracelet, identical to the one on the cave wall, should be in my possession when I met you."
"Legends are stories and prophecies are wishes, Kyla, not facts," Clark told her gently. He set the bracelet on the arm of the couch.
"But you're here," Kyla said with a smile. "Your very presence contradicts your logic."
"Kyla, I'm not Naman," Clark persisted, though obviously, she refused to believe him. He cursed Lex silently for causing the cascading mess.
Kyla leaned closer, her breath warm against his face. Her gaze dropped to his mouth and she licked her lips before meeting his eyes again. "Are you sure?"
Clark tried not to grin. He was being seduced! Too bad he felt no sexual attraction for her, or he'd be getting lucky. "Yeah, I'm sure. Sorry."
Clark jerked in surprise at the calling of his name, his elbow hitting the bracelet. It fell off the arm of the couch. He stood, went over to the loft rail, and looked over, downstairs. "Lana, hey. Come on up."
He watched her progress, frowning when he saw her reddened eyes and damp cheeks. "What's wrong?" he said, as she topped the last stair.
Lana saw Kyla, and instead of answering, she became apologetic. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you had company."
"It's okay." Clark put his hands on her shoulders and squeezed lightly. He glanced back at Kyla. "Kyla, I'll call you tomorrow, if that's all right."
Kyla appeared displeased, but she agreed. "I'll be waiting." She set aside the book, slid on her coat, and started for the stairs. Clark felt her hand touch his back, drifting lower to brush his ass, as she passed. She bumped Lana with her shoulder almost rudely before heading downstairs.
Lana began crying.
Clark was startled by her reaction to being bumped into. He pulled her into an embrace. "Hey, hey, hey. There's no need to cry."
"I'm sorry." Lana sniffed against his shirt.
Clark stroked his hand down her hair soothingly, holding her closer. He heard a noise downstairs and glanced over the rail in time to see the barn door shut. Kyla, his mind supplied. Shortly thereafter, he heard Kyla's truck pull out of the driveway.
"I'm sorry," Lana apologized again. She stepped out of his arms and wiped her wet cheeks. "I didn't mean to chase off your girlfriend."
"Friends in need are just as important," Clark said, allowing the girlfriend comment to pass. He guided her over to the couch. "Now, tell me how I can help."
Lana sniffed, pulled a tissue from her coat pocket, and dabbed her nose. "I spoke with Henry Small today."
Henry Small, Lana's alleged biological father. Clark knew immediately what had happened and he felt for her. "He wasn't too receptive, huh?"
"He told me he already had two children and didn't want any more." Lana's lower lip trembled. "I told him I didn't want anything other than to get to know him, but he wants nothing to do with me and told me never to contact him again."
"Aw, hell." Clark put his arm around her shoulder and allowed her to cry on him again. He scowled at a distant point, wanting to rough up Small for hurting her.
"This is so stupid." Lana sniffed. "I've done fine so far without a dad. I don't need one. And I don't even know if he is my dad, anyway. He's probably not and I'm wasting my tears for no reason."
"It's not stupid. If I had a chance to know my biological parents, I'd want it, too," Clark said. His thoughts drifted to the symbols on the cave walls and in the pod of his ship.
"What am I going to do?" Lana said, wiping her face with the tissue.
"I hate to say this, but you can't force him to acknowledge you," Clark said. "It might have to be enough to only know who your father may be."
"I know," Lana said sadly. She sniffed again and smiled shakily at him. "Thanks for listening to me. I knew you'd understand."
"I take it Fordman doesn't?" Clark said.
Lana shook her head. "He said that Nell is my parent and didn't know why I would want to be related to a complete stranger."
"The curse of the adopted child, wanting to know where we came from even though we have real parents already." Clark squeezed her shoulder. "Feel better?"
Lana nodded. "Thanks, Clark. You're a good friend."
Clark smiled. "I try to be."
Clark groaned when the alarm went off way too early Friday morning. He'd been up late talking with Lana before she'd left to walk home. Dressed in boxers, he rolled out of the hammock, bare feet thumping on the loft floor. Still half-asleep, he switched off the alarm and stumbled downstairs to the bathroom.
Where he found a naked Lex Luthor brushing his teeth.
Clark stood in the open doorway, one hand on the doorknob, gaping at the man in his bathroom. His eyes skimmed winter-pale buttermilk skin dotted sporadically with freckles, broad shoulders and solid pecs with nickel-sized, puckered nipples the color of rose coral. Lex's ridged abdomen, trim waist, and sharp hips drew Clark's focus. His gaze traced the David-lines, etched muscle curving towards Lex's groin. Dark, springy curls that shone copper when caught by the light surrounded Lex's flaccid cock. Cut and faintly pink in tone, Lex's penis rested against a flushed ballsac, furred with the same dark pubic hair. Solid quads and calves flexed when Lex turned on his bare feet to look at Clark. Toothpaste circled Lex's pink lips, his biceps bulging as he brushed his teeth.
He watched Clark stare at him, orange-red tuft of hair sticking up in disarray from being toweled dry. He chewed on his toothbrush.
Clark made a pained noise in the back of his throat and grew rock hard. Lex's gaze dropped to Clark's boxers when they twitched and rose. His brow furrowed and he innocently slurped the toothpaste that drooled from his mouth.
"Oh, god." Clark pried his hand off the mangled bathroom doorknob and fled outside into the pre-dawn winter morning. He crashed to his knees in the snow a good distance away from the barn, shoved down his boxers, and grabbed his rigid cock. Five fast, wrist-twisting strokes and he exploded with an animalistic cry.
Squeezing his eyes shut, he slumped on his heels and panted like an overheated beast. The jizz on his hand froze in the cold. His cock didn't soften, standing erect from the dark curls on his groin, pulsing with each beat of his heart. His palms itched and he ground his teeth, fighting the urge to go after Lex, raging against the feverish desire to grab and pin Lex down, to mar the miles of pale skin, mounting and marking his territory.
Clark grabbed his cock again in a punishing grip and fucked his fist violently. His hips snapped at a rapid, brutal pace, the fingers of his other hand gouging into the tensed muscle of his thigh. His lips curled in a snarl, panting through his teeth, breath expelling in the air like smoke. His harsh masturbation brought him to the edge again in moments, heat curling at the base of his spine. His balls drew up tightly and he thrust faster into his fist.
He came with a snarled roar, shooting into the snow, his vision whiting-out. His thoughts scattered like snowflakes in a blizzard. Wind rushed in his ears, blocking the outside world completely. He collapsed onto his heels, chest heaving and his head lolling.
He returned slowly from his post-orgasmic stupor. Lines sunk into the snow in front of him where his come had landed. The gray sky had lightened as the sun began rising behind the clouds.
It had been a long time since he'd felt so out-of-control. Simply seeing Lex naked shouldn't have affected him so greatly; it hadn't the two other times. Guilt and shame swamped him for wanting Lex so badly he'd nearly lost it. It was a good thing they were going to Metropolis. He'd stay in the city after business was done and find a weekend-long orgy to get rid of his pent-up libido.
Thankfully, Lex was gone by the time Clark returned to the barn. After a quick run through his morning ablutions, Clark dressed in black trousers, lavender shirt and tie, grabbed a suit coat and headed for the main house.
A fully dressed Lex sat at the kitchen table with Martha, eating cereal. He glanced up and then half-turned on his chair, his body language closing himself off from Clark. He wore navy coveralls, the same ones he'd had on the first time he'd "cleaned up" to visit Clark. The fistful of incongruous orange-red hair curled softly against Lex's head.
Clark realized Lex's hair was the same as it had been back in October. In fact, now that Clark thought about it, Lex's hair matched the post-meteorite shower photographs of him as a child and teenager.
The meteorites must've deadened the hair follicles. It explained Lex's baldness and why his pubic hair was very dark red instead of the bright orange-red color. Clark bet the tuft on Lex's head wouldn't grow back if it was cut or shaved off. It was surprising it hadn't fallen out on its own, but that probably had something to do with the meteorites.
Clark tried imagining Lex completely bald and found he couldn't. That bit of hair was tied to Lex's innocence, an integral part of his personality. It was a visible reminder to Clark that Lex was off limits and made him feel even dirtier for his masturbation.
Clark slung his suit coat over the chair and went to pour himself some coffee. "Where's Dad?"
"He'll be down shortly," Martha said.
Leaning against the kitchen counter, Clark glanced at the silent Lex and then focused on his coffee. "I'm thinking about staying in Metropolis for the weekend."
"I'm sure your grandparents would be glad to have you there," Martha said.
"That's not what I meant." Clark met his mom's inquisitive gaze with a forthright look. It didn't take her long to understand.
"Be safe," was all she said.
Jonathan came downstairs, dressed similarly to Clark and carrying a suit coat. He draped the coat over a chair, kissed Martha, and made a beeline for the coffeemaker "Morning, Clark, Lex. Ready to go?"
"Yeah," Clark said. "Are we meeting Tony at the office?"
"No, at the government complex." Jonathan sipped his coffee, frowning over the rim of the mug when he saw Lex. "I thought I told you to dress nice, Lex."
"Yes." Lex looked down at his overalls. "These are my nice clothes."
"Is it really that important, Dad?" Clark said, having seen firsthand Lex's limited wardrobe.
"It's a sign of respect to the Judge," Jonathan replied. "I'm sure one of us has clothes he can borrow."
"I'll find him something to wear." Clark set his empty mug in the sink. "Lex, come out to the loft when you're done eating."
In the loft, Clark packed a bag for the weekend and then sorted through the shirts, trousers, and suit coats on the freestanding closet bar. He located a plain white dress shirt, deep red and blue striped tie, and navy trousers that might fit Lex.
Lex's footfalls were heavy on the steps. He pulled off his snow-dampened yellow boots at the top of the stairs. He kept his eyes on the floor, hands shoved in his overall pockets, as he further entered the loft.
"Try those," Clark said, pointing at the clothing he'd laid on the couch.
Lex hunched in on himself. "I have to take off my clothes first."
"Do you need me to leave?" Clark had been the one overly affected by Lex's nudity, whereas Lex hadn't seemed uncomfortable before.
"I don't want to scare you again."
Clark was confused. "What are you talking about?"
"You saw me naked twice and ran away both times." Lex's hand skittered over his head. "I know I'm ugly, but I can't help it."
Clark's heart panged. "You're not ugly, Lex," he said. He hesitated briefly, then added, "I ran away because of how not ugly you are."
Lex glanced up at Clark from beneath his reddish lashes. "I don't understand."
Clark couldn't lie to Lex, not when Lex was so very mistaken about his appearance. "You're hot, Lex."
Lex's brows furrowed. "No. I'm comfortable."
"No, I mean, you're striking. Extremely good-looking." Clark braced himself and admitted, "I'm very attracted to you. That's why I ran away."
"I don't understand," Lex said again.
Clark blew out a breath and rubbed the back of his neck. "Do you know what it means to be gay?"
Clark's was surprised. "You do?"
"Yes," Lex repeated.
"Oh, um, well, that's what I am. Gay," Clark said.
"Okay? So you understand now?"
Clark didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or wash his own mouth out with soap for trying to explain. He felt like a pervert. "I like guys, Lex, and you're a guy."
"You like me?" Lex perked up.
"No. Yes. No." Clark wrinkled his nose and tried again. "I like you a lot. That's why when I saw you naked, I had to leave, because I wanted to touch you."
Clark was going to that special hell reserved for innocent-perverting aliens. "Sexually, Lex. I wanted to touch you sexually."
Lex's face and head flushed deep pink and he looked down at his feet again. He wiggled his bare toes and whispered shyly, "I wouldn't have minded."
Fire rushed instantly through Clark's veins, straight to his cock. He made a deep, uncontrolled noise in the back of his throat, hands convulsing. He took a step back, then another and another, until his head smacked against a wood beam. A shudder wracked his body. He closed his eyes tightly and fought for control.
"I'm fine." Clark's growling voice was unrecognizable in his own ears. "Change your clothes. I'll meet you in the house."
He didn't wait for a response, speeding out of the loft before he fully opened his eyes. Outside, he leaned against the wall of the barn, breathing in the cold air, regretting that he couldn't feel the chill temperature. He gave his balls a vicious twist through his trousers and concentrated on thumping his head against the red-painted slats behind him without damaging them.
What was he going to do? Lex was socially backwards and possibly mentally incompetent. He wasn't supposed to know about his own sexuality, let alone express interest in Clark! It was hard enough keeping his hands off Lex as it was, feeling like a child molester anytime he thought about Lex sexually. But with Lex reciprocating the attraction...
Clark thumped his head harder. Lex was still off limits, especially to Clark with his aggressiveness and his record. The Metropolis gay scene was about to get a very regular addition.
On Lex, Clark's white shirt was long in the sleeves and tight across the chest. Cinched with a belt, the navy trousers bunched around Lex's ankles, hemmed with safety pins over his yellow fire boots. There was no choice about Lex's footwear, but it could be explained away due to the weather. They didn't have enough time to stop for shoe shopping.
Jonathan knotted the blue and red striped tie, with Lex alternately watching Jonathan's hands and looking up at him with such parental adoration, Clark felt dirty again and Jonathan had to clear his throat roughly before speaking. "There. That's better. We'd best get going. I'll grab our coats."
"Clark, do you have your cell phone?" Martha asked.
"Yeah," Clark said, kissing her cheek. "I'll check in sometime over the weekend."
After stopping up at the loft to get his bag, Clark joined Lex and Jonathan in Martha's car. The trip to Metropolis was made with little conversation. The radio played country music, which Jonathan occasionally sang along with, while Clark stared out the passenger side window, thinking about the man seated behind him in the backseat.
Lex Luthor might be gay, or at least, he wanted Clark sexually. He said he knew what it meant to be gay, but that didn't explain how he knew it. Had he shyly asked his handful of friends what it meant to dream sticky dreams of other males? Had someone explained the facts of life to him without limitations of sexuality, like Kyle? Had he spied in the woods during high school parties at the lake, catching couples in the throes of passion? Or had he read books about puberty and sex when his body started changing in his teens, learning through research about being gay?
Clark could see the last happening easily: Lex ferreting away the books, vivid blush coloring his cheeks as he read about erections, emissions, and the desire for other guys, sliding his hand into his overalls, playing with himself with virginal tentativeness-
Clark cut off that direction of his thoughts, bunching his hands into fists. His jaw ticked as he ground his teeth.
"All right there, Clark?" Jonathan asked, glancing at him.
"Yes," Clark gritted out.
"I'm fine," Clark snapped. At Jonathan's look, Clark took a deep breath and released it slowly. He shouldn't take out his sexual frustration on his father. "Sorry. I just really need a weekend in the city."
"Ah." Jonathan appeared uncomfortable immediately. "Well, you do what you need to do, but don't lose control."
"I know." Clark's frustration bled into misery. Sex was a necessity and not as pleasurable as he'd like. But repression would lead to violent outbursts, something extremely dangerous for someone who had his powers. Regulating his libido was a part of life and that wouldn't ever change.
Clark glanced over his shoulder at Lex, who sat rigidly in his seat, watching out the side window. Clark looked for fear in Lex's face, but only saw interest in the passing scenery. Clark knew, then, he could never have sex with Lex, whether Lex was competent or not. His need to retain control meant he couldn't be free in his passion. Lex deserved someone who could love him without reserve, especially in his innocence, not to mention with his virginity.
Clark sighed, faced forward again, and propped his cheek on his palm, elbow on the window's edge. Sometimes being an alien really sucked donkey's balls.
The Metropolis District Five Government Complex loomed over the street, along with the other glass high-rises on the city block. Lex nearly stumbled from gawking, as they walked from the parking garage to the government complex.
"Careful," Clark said, when Lex bumped into him. He put a guiding hand on Lex's lower back. "The buildings haven't changed since you were last here, Lex."
"I forgot how tall they were." Lex's breath made smoke in the cold, winter air. "Are we going to the top?"
"No," Jonathan said from his other side. "The Courts are on the sixth floor."
"Good." Lex glanced shamefacedly at Clark. "I don't like heights."
A corner of Clark's mouth quirked. "I'm scared to death of them."
"Really?" Lex looked up at the tall building again. "Dad says fear is a sign of a weak mind. Only, it's my knees that get weak when I'm up so high, not my brain."
Jonathan smothered a chuckle and held open the door to the government complex. In the smoked-glass-enclosed lobby, the heels of men and women in sharp overcoats and briefcases clicked rapid staccatos on the tile floor in their hurry. Others, dressed more casually, filtered through security, proceeding to the elevators that would take them to the various levels of the complex.
Tony Kaminski finished his conversation with someone and met Jonathan, Clark, and Lex near the security line. Tall, bulky, and with steel gray hair, wearing a black suit, Tony was one of the sons of the founding partners of the law firm of Kaminski & Clark. He was also a close friend of Martha and Jonathan's. He shook both Clark's and Jonathan's hands, greeting them genially, before turning to Lex. "And you must be Alexander Luthor."
Clark laid a hand on Lex's lower back again, preventing him from skittering away in shyness. "Shake his hand," he whispered.
Lex took Tony's extended hand quickly, his chin lowered, eyes focused on the ground. "My name is Lex," he said quietly.
"Nice to meet you, Lex," Tony said. "Are you ready to rejoin the land of the living?"
Lex tried to back up again, but Clark's hand stopped him. "I don't understand."
Tony looked questioningly at Jonathan. "Lex knows why we're here," Jonathan said.
Tony nodded and looked at his watch. "Let's proceed upstairs. There are a few things we need to go over before the hearing."
They joined the line of attorneys, their clients, and the public, and passed through security to the elevators. Lex stood practically on top of Clark in the packed elevator, anxiety palpable, and it brought out Clark's protective instincts. He kept Lex close, hand rubbing soothingly on his back, and softly prattled with reassurance in his ear. Clark couldn't imagine how Lex felt, being in such a large, crowded setting after living like a ghost in Smallville for so long.
"No one has approached Judge Maitland since I filed the emergency injunction," Tony said once they were enclosed in a small conference room on the sixth floor. Clark, Lex, Jonathan, and Tony sat around a circular table with legal papers spread between them. Lex's chair butted against Clark and he alternated between watching them and darting his gaze to the window set in the door each time someone passed.
"That's good," Jonathan said. "But Rickman is a tricky SOB and I wouldn't put it past him to try something at the last minute."
"If it looks like the Judge has been influenced in any way, I'll move for a continuance," Tony said.
"And if it looks like you have been compromised, we'll move to withdraw counsel and proceed pro se."
Tony chuckled. "Sounds like you were briefed by Martha before coming."
Jonathan smiled ruefully. "Of course."
"Lex, I need you to sign these," Tony said, shifting a sheaf of papers with red tabs to face Lex.
"What am I signing?" Lex asked, looking at, but not touching, the papers.
"Affidavits of the contents of the suit," Tony said. "I filed the injunction based on four factors: that the Department of Health has listed you as deceased, therefore any documents executed by a 'dead man' are invalid; that it has been less than three days since the contract was signed and you are having remorse; that you were coerced into signing said contract; and that you are not and did not receive any consideration for your intellectual and physical property."
"Go ahead and sign, son," Jonathan said. "I trust that Tony knows what he's doing."
"Okay." Lex picked up the pen and signed wherever Tony indicated.
Tony glanced at his watch. "We have about fifteen minutes. Does anyone have any questions?"
"What if this doesn't work?" Clark asked.
"Then, we'll find another way to break the contract," Tony said. "Don't worry, we won't let Lex remain under Rickman's control."
A knock sounded on the door. It opened and a heavy-set man in a black suit and wearing black leather gloves addressed Tony. "Rickman's here with his attorney. I sent Rhonda on a smoke break, so the office is closed for a few minutes."
"Thanks, Winters," Tony said, collecting the papers and placing them in his briefcase. "We'll be right out."
Winters nodded and shut the door. Tony answered the unspoken question. "William took Martha at her word and put security on the Judge since filing the injunction."
"Well, we'll see if it worked," Jonathan said, rising.
The Metropolis District Five courtroom their hearing was in was small but formal. The Plaintiffs' and Respondents' tables, witness box, Judge's bench, and public pews were made of rich mahogany, blending with the deeply colored walls and carpeting. The US and State flags bracketed the Judge's bench. Bob Rickman and his attorney stood behind the Respondents' table, speaking quietly.
Clark and Jonathan sat in the first pew. Lex shot them a nervous look as Tony directed him to sit at the Plaintiffs' table. They were the only ones in the courtroom.
"Jonathan, Clark, Lex, it's good to see you again despite this unfortunate situation," Rickman drawled, coming over to their side of the courtroom. He extended his hand to Tony. "And you must be Lex's counsel."
Tony did not shake Rickman's hand. "I am. If you'll excuse us, my client requests that you not come within fifty feet of him."
The corners of Rickman's eyes tightened in displeasure, but he otherwise blew it off. "Very well. I can take a hint. I just thought we might be able to come to an agreement instead of going through with this rodeo circus."
"Unless you plan to terminate and vacate the contract completely, we're not interested," Tony said.
Rickman's attorney, John Costas, beckoned Rickman. Tony turned to Lex after Rickman walked away. "Costas might try to call you to the stand, just so you're forewarned. As this is only an emergency hearing, the Judge most likely won't let him."
A side door opened and the court reporter entered the courtroom, followed by the Judge. "Please rise," the court reporter said. "Metropolis District Court Five is now in session. The Honorable Judith Maitland presiding."
Judge Maitland, a robust African American with closely cropped hair and glasses, took her chair behind the bench and opened the file in her hand. "Be seated. This is cause number 32C05-0201-MI-056, in the matter of Alexander Luthor versus Robert W. Rickman doing business as Rickman Industries, LLC. Are you Alexander Luthor?"
Lex started when the Judge asked the question, looking up swiftly. "Yes."
"Mr. Luthor appears in person and by counsel, Anthony Kaminski," Judge Maitland said. The court reporter took stenography. "Robert Rickman also appears in person and by counsel, John Costas. We're here today regarding Petitioner's Petition for Emergency Preliminary Injunction. Mr. Kaminski?"
Tony rose again. "Thank you, Your Honor. Your Honor, as outlined in our petition, we're seeking an injunction against Mr. Rickman and Rickman Industries. Specifically, the contract executed by Alexander Luthor, which I've attached as Petitioner's Exhibit 1." He went on to repeat the reasons for the injunction that he'd previously explained to Lex, Jonathan, and Clark.
"Thank you. Mr. Costas?" Judge Maitland said when Tony finished and sat again.
Costas, a respectable middle-aged man, stood and presented his response. "Your Honor, to begin with, as you can plainly see, Mr. Luthor is, indeed, alive, in spite of what the Department of Health records say and he, himself, executed the contract in question.
"Further, the contract is not subject to the Remorse laws, as Mr. Luthor was not at his home at the time of execution, nor is Mr. Rickman a salesman as defined by said laws," Costas said. "As for the third point, the burden of proof is on the Petitioner and I see no evidence that he was under duress during the execution of the contract. Mr. Luthor does not say that he was threatened or blackmailed, and there are no medical records showing that he was physically coerced.
"Finally, the consideration to Mr. Luthor is that he is a Rickman Industries employee and shall receive a salary and benefits associated therein. Therefore, I move for this matter to be dismissed based on the aforementioned reasons. Thank you."
"Mr. Kaminski?" Judge Maitland said, jotting notes.
"Yes, briefly. In regards to the third point in my petition, as it states, Mr. Luthor was confronted in the laboratory inside the Kent greenhouse, which only has one exit. The associates with Mr. Rickman at the time of execution of the contract stood blocking the doorway and Mr. Luthor perceived that he could not leave the room of his own volition," Tony said.
"As to the consideration that my colleague said was afforded Mr. Luthor, nowhere in this contract does it state in definite terms that Mr. Luthor is an employee of Rickman Industries, his salary provisos, or the benefits he would receive. Thank you."
Judge Maitland rifled through the papers in the court file. "I have had time this morning to review the contract and I have to say, I found no terms of consideration within the contract, either. Whether it is assumed or not, no contract of purchase or employment is valid without said information. Therefore, I order that the Emergency Preliminary Injunction is granted and made permanent. Any property of Mr. Luthor's that you have, Mr. Rickman, shall be returned to him within fifteen days. I'll also order the Department of Health to retract the death certificate for Alexander Luthor. Is there anything else, gentlemen?"
"No, Your Honor," Tony said.
"No, Your Honor," Costas echoed.
"Then, you are dismissed," Judge Maitland said, rising from the bench.
Tony and Costas both rose as the Judge collected the file and left the courtroom. The court reporter followed.
"Is that it?" Lex asked timidly.
"That's it." Tony smiled widely. "You're no longer under contract with Rickman Industries."
Clark whooped in his mind, a relieved grin on his face. He leaned forward and clapped Lex on the shoulder. Jonathan stood and shook Tony's hand.
"Congratulations, Mr. Luthor," Rickman said, as he came over to them. Clark rose and half-stepped in front of Lex's chair. "No one has succeeded in breaking a contract with me before today."
"I'm sure we're just the first of many," Jonathan said. "I expect Lex's research to be returned to him within the fifteen day limit."
"I'll have everything delivered to the Kent farm." Rickman smirked at Clark and looked past him, down at Lex. "Unless, of course, Mr. Luthor would like to come work for Rickman Industries? I've opened a plant right in Grandville. I'll give you commensurate salary with my other researchers, your own lab, and all the funding you need to conduct your experiments. What do you say?"
"You heard him," Clark said. "Lex isn't interested."
Rickman shrugged affably. "His loss. Good day, gentlemen."
After Rickman and Costas left the courtroom, Jonathan turned to Lex. "I should've done this when you first started helping me and Martha, but better late than never. I'd like to hire you as a researcher for KentCorp."
Lex looked at Jonathan with worry rather than excitement. "But I want to do experiments with you and Mrs. Kent."
Jonathan sounded a bit gruff when he replied, "You can still do that, son, but now we'll pay you, too."
"Okay," Lex said simply.
Jonathan cleared his throat. "Tony, if we can utilize your services a little longer to draw up a contract for Lex...?"
"Sure. We'll head down to the office and draw one up," Tony said. "But first, let's reanimate Lex."
The four left the courtroom. Tony stopped to speak with Winters and then went into the court staff office to find out if he could get the order right away, so they could stop at the Department of Health on the third floor. Clark pulled Lex aside while they waited, as Jonathan examined an old city map on the wall. "If the Department of Health asks what your address is, give them the one for my house," Clark said.
"Why?" Lex asked with a frown of confusion.
"Because you don't get mail at the plant and that's why they want it," Clark half-lied. It was true that the Department of Health would want a mailing address, but it was also to protect Lex, squatting illegally in the KentCorp sub-basement.
Eventually, Tony returned with a certified Order to Rescind as well as the Order on Permanent Injunction, and what followed was the longest hour of Clark's life. He and Jonathan were stuck in the waiting room in the office of the Department of Health, while Lex and Tony met with the clerk. Clark could see Lex from where he sat and sent reassuring nods and waves whenever Lex looked nervously towards him.
Clark and Jonathan didn't talk while they waited. Jonathan loved agricultural science and football. Clark's passions were journalism and running. They couldn't talk about girls and Jonathan was accepting but uncomfortable with evidence of Clark's homosexuality. Clark got overly defensive when Jonathan tried to talk about Lex and Jonathan became dour when Clark brought up his grandparents. Chatting about the mutants was off-limits because of the public setting, same with the Kawatche cave.
So they sat in silence, Clark watching Lex, trying to lip-read, and Jonathan paging through old magazines in the waiting room.
By the time Lex and Tony were done, Clark was climbing the walls. And then, after lunch, he was stuck waiting again, trapped in Tony's office, while Jonathan, Tony, and Lex hammered out a contract between Lex and KentCorp. If it weren't for Lex's apparent need for him to be close by still - something that tugged his heart but was also rather unhealthy, psychologically - Clark would've bolted already.
Eventually - finally - they finished and Lex was officially a salaried, tax-paying researcher for KentCorp. The contract allowed Lex to put his name on anything he developed on his own and the KentCorp name went on things he, Jonathan and Martha created together. Other benefits, such as participating in the retirement funds or insurance, were available and Lex had to contact the main KentCorp office to sign up for any of them.
On the way down in the elevator at Kaminski & Clark, Clark turned on his cell phone to check his messages. He had three of them, all from Chloe, that caused his gut to clench.
"Where are you? Lana's in the hospital. She was attacked by a wolf last night. You're friends with her. I need you to find out what the wolf looked like, if there were more, and if it was rabid or acting meteor-mutanty."
Clark deleted the messages and shoved the phone in his pocket. "I need to go. Lana's in the hospital."
Jonathan nodded. "Go ahead. We'll see you at home."
"Bye," Lex said, as the elevator doors opened.
Clark hurried human-fast out of the office building, up the block, and ducked into the first alley he saw. He hit superspeed once he was out of direct sight of witnesses.
He arrived in Smallville within minutes, the soles of his dress shoes smoking and smelling of burned rubber. He stomped in a snow pile, cooling them off, before entering the Smallville Medical Center. He combed his fingers through his windblown hair and then turned on the charm to get Lana's room number out of the Nurse-Receptionist.
Clark knocked on the partially open door of the gaudy hospital room. Lana looked up from her magazine and smiled. "Clark, hi." She sat in a hospital bed, both hands and arms bandaged to the elbows, but otherwise appeared okay. "You're all dressed up. What's the occasion?"
"I had a thing in Metropolis." Clark entered and went immediately to hug her. A wave of nausea washed over him. He released her quickly and took a step back from the bed. A hint of green rock peeked from the collar of her hospital gown; her meteorite necklace, something she hadn't worn in a while. "How are you?"
"I'm a little banged up, but otherwise fine," Lana said.
Clark pulled up a chair, staying out of range of the rock's ill effects. "Chloe said you'd been attacked by a wolf."
Lana nodded, closing her magazine and setting it aside. "Right on my back porch coming back from your house. Aunt Nell pulled me inside before it could really hurt me."
"Did you see any other wolves?"
"Just the one attacking me," Lana replied blithely.
"Tell me more about the wolf," Clark said. "What did he look like? Did you notice anything unusual about it?"
Lana appeared amused. "Am I going to be on the front page of the Torch?"
Clark's lips curved in a sheepish smile. "Sorry. Chloe, Pete, and I are investigating the wolf-sightings in the area."
"I can't tell you much, I was pretty scared," Lana said. "The wolf was normal, I guess. I've only seen them in the Metropolis Zoo and never that close up."
A light knock on the door interrupted further conversation. Clark recognized Henry Small from Lana's picture, though his hair was grayer and he had more age-lines. "Hi, uh, Lana. Do you have a moment? Or, I could come back?"
"Mr. Small. No. Please, come in." Lana looked nervous and hopeful as she glanced at Clark. Clark took his cue to leave.
"I'll see you at school on Monday." Clark rose. "If not, I'll bring your homework over to you."
"Thanks, Clark," Lana said with a soft smile.
Clark nodded in polite greeting to Small as he left the hospital room. He didn't go far, though. His mom was right in calling him a nosey-parker.
"How are you feeling?" Clark heard Small ask.
"I'm okay," Lana replied. "I'm surprised to see you."
There was a brief, awkward silence, before Small spoke. "I heard on the local news that you'd been hurt and found myself fretting: 'What if she needs a transfusion? What if she has a rare blood type and I could be the perfect match?' I couldn't live with myself if you suffered when I could do something."
"But we don't know if you're my biological father," Lana said quietly.
"I guess we'll soon find out."
Clark smiled to himself, glad about Small's change of heart. He tucked his hands in his pockets, squeaked on his heel as he turned, and headed home.
"Pete and I checked out another animal attack from last night," Chloe told Clark over the phone line. "Same M.O. as the deer, half-eaten after being hit by a truck."
"A single wolf couldn't eat that much in two days." Clark sat in front of his computer, suit coat draped over the back of the chair, tie loosened and top shirt button undone. He clicked another link on animal behaviorism. "There must be more than one. Maybe even a pack."
"That's what I was thinking. I spoke with a few of the farmers from the message board who'd lost livestock and pretty much all of the attacks happened within the past two weeks."
"But that would go against what happened to Lana. Wolves shy away from humans." Clark's eyes scanned the web page. "And if she'd accidentally encroached on their territory, she would've encountered more than one. She definitely wouldn't have been attacked on her own back porch."
"Maybe it was a rabid wolf."
"No," Clark said. He heard tires on the gravel driveway outside the open hayloft window. "Lana's medical records say she was only scratched up. Nothing about rabies."
"Then we either have one really hungry, crazy wolf or a pack of wolves with one crazy member."
"Or one crazy wolf and one very hungry something else."
"I didn't even think of that," Chloe said after a short pause. "I may have to turn in my Nancy Drew badge."
Someone entered the barn, calling his name, and he rose to see who it was. Kyla waved at him and started up the steps. "Chloe, I have to go."
"Okay. Call me tomorrow. We need to figure out what's going on."
"You've got it. Bye." Clark disconnected and tucked the phone in his pocket. "Kyla, hey. What are you doing here?"
"Aren't you glad to see me?" Kyla said, as she topped the last step.
"Yes, but it's hard to call you to set up our date if you're not at your grandfather's," Clark said.
Kyla removed her winter coat to reveal jeans and a tight tank top that was highly inappropriate for the weather. "I thought we could discuss it tonight, in person."
"Sure." Clark moved and leaned against the edge of his desk. "Anywhere in particular you want to go?" As long as it was in public so Clark could be seen with her, to keep up his straight-guy ruse, he didn't care what they did.
"Oh, I don't know. What is there to do in Smallville?"
"Um, well, we can go to the movies, or hang out at the Talon," Clark said.
"Whatever you want, Naman."
Clark's lips thinned. "Kyla, could you not call me that? I'm not Naman."
Kyla gave him a bemused look, walked over to the open window, and gazed up at the dark, early evening sky. "You have a great view. I love looking at the stars."
"Me, too." Clark saw her shiver, grabbed his suit coat off the chair, and draped it over her shoulders.
She smiled at him, holding the coat closed. She pointed at the sky with her other hand. "Do you see that bright star, right there?"
Clark moved beside her at the window and looked at the heavens. "Which one?"
"Here." She stepped in front of him, took his hand, and aligned their pointer fingers. Her back pressed against his chest and she leaned her head on his shoulder. "See it? If you follow the stars around it, it makes the shape of a wolf's head."
Kyla lowered their arms, trapping his hand against her abdomen in a blatantly inviting manner. "See how one of the eyes is missing? Kawatche ancestors say that there used to be a star there. That's where Naman came from."
"What happened to it?"
Kyla turned to face him, pressing her breasts to his chest. "You tell me. You're the one who fell from the sky."
Headlights coming up the driveway shined in the loft widow and saved Clark from an awkward situation. He stepped backwards. "Looks like my dad's home."
Kyla smiled brightly. "I'd love to meet the people who raised Naman. I should get to know them if we're destined to be together."
"Kyla, I'm not Naman," Clark tried to impress upon her. "Even if I was, I wouldn't let some cave painting dictate my future. You shouldn't either."
"What do you mean?"
Clark put his hands on her shoulders and bent slightly to look her in the eyes. "The woman on the cave wall is not destined to do anything but live her life how she wants to, and that includes dating anyone she desires."
Kyla leaned forward, peering coyly at him. "What if who she desires is Naman?"
Clark dropped his arms, stepped back, and sighed silently. She was persistent, he'd give her that, and if he weren't as gay as blazes, he'd be all over her. "Kyla..."
"Just because something is a myth doesn't make it not true," Kyla said, closing the distance between them. She slid her hands up his chest and wrapped her hand around his tie. "The first visitor from the stars supposedly brought special green stones and they had really strange effects on the people. I know you have seen them."
A sound behind him caused him to turn, and he saw Lex at the top of the steps, glancing nervously at Kyla. He tugged at something on his right wrist. "Can I come in?"
"Always," Clark said, grateful for his appearance. He loosed Kyla's hand from his tie. "Kyla, you remember Lex."
"Yes." Kyla sounded irritated and sullen. Clark hid his inappropriate smile at her dislike of the interruption.
Lex tugged at his wrist as he topped the last step into the loft, moving to stand beside the safety rail, but he didn't come any further. Clark frowned concernedly, switching to x-ray vision and saw a metal band around Lex's arm. "What's on your wrist?"
"A bracelet." Lex held out his arm. "I can't get it off."
Clark's eyes widened slightly. It was Kyla's Kawatche bracelet.
Kyla stalked over to Lex, causing him to back up into the safety rail. "Where did you get that?" she demanded, grabbing his arm.
"I- I found it by the stairs," Lex stammered, panicky gaze darting past Kyla to Clark for rescue.
Clark came over quickly. "Kyla-"
"It's mine. Give it back." Kyla dug her fingers under the edge of the bracelet.
"Ow!" Lex jerked his arm away.
"Give it back!" Kyla growled, baring her teeth.
"Hey!" Clark half-stepped between them, forcing Kyla to back up. "You'll get your bracelet in a minute. Just back off."
"He shouldn't have it at all. No one should but me! I'm the woman in Naman's destiny!" Kyla exclaimed.
Clark narrowed his eyes. "Bracelet or not, Naman isn't destined to be with any woman. I think you'd better leave."
Kyla's pinched, angry expression was not attractive. "I want my bracelet."
"I'll mail it to your grandfather," Clark said, folding his arms. He felt Lex's fingers curl in the material of his untucked shirt.
Kyla glared darkly at Lex and shrugged off Clark's suit coat. It fell to the floor. She grabbed her own winter coat and stalked out of the loft. After a moment, the barn door slammed.
Clark rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. Served him right for leading her on.
Turning around, he gave Lex a reassuring smile. "Let's get this off of you," he said, taking Lex's wrist.
"I didn't mean to upset her," Lex said, sounding upset himself. "I just wanted to try it on. My mom has one like it."
"It's okay, Lex," Clark said, carefully bending the metal of the bracelet. Lillian Luthor having once possessed a similar bracelet gave credibility to the fact that the pictographs on the cave walls were only stories.
Clark slid the bracelet off, tossed it onto the couch, and massaged Lex's reddened wrist. "Did Dad bring food home?"
"Yes. I'm supposed to change clothes and get you for dinner."
Clark dropped Lex's wrist and stepped back quickly, as naked Lex danced in his thoughts. "I'll, um, give you privacy, then."
The cell phone in Clark's pocket vibrated, which caused him to moan at the stimulation to his erection, as he headed for the house. He pointedly did not stroke anything as he pulled out the phone. He didn't recognize the number displayed. "Hello?"
"Hey, Kent. It's Dan Russo."
"Hey, what's going on?"
"Nothing much. You doing anything tonight?" Russo said over the line.
"Depends on if I get laid or not." Clark stopped on the house porch, not wanting to have a sex conversation in front of his parents. Russo was a fellow Closet party regular that Clark had yet to hook up with. And he had perfect timing.
"My folks are gone until late and I have lube. Come over whenever."
Clark smiled wolfishly. Metropolis could wait until tomorrow. "Give me an hour or so."
Despite the unspoken promise of multiple bouts of sex awaiting him, Clark didn't rush through dinner. He filled his parents and Lex in on Lana's condition.
"The hospital is certain the wolf wasn't rabid?" Martha asked, as they finished their take-out Chinese.
"Her blood tests came back clear," Clark said. He grinned innocuously at Martha's scolding look - she knew about his hack of the Smallville Medical Center.
Jonathan turned to Lex. "Maybe it's best if one of us drives you home, instead of you riding that contraption. I wouldn't want you getting hurt if the wolf is still in the area."
"Okay," Lex said with a pleased blush for the concern.
"I'll take him," Clark said. "I'm going out, anyway."
"To Metropolis?" Martha said.
Clark shook his head. "Change of plans. I'll be in town tonight. I might go to Metropolis tomorrow, though."
"All right. Just be careful driving. We're supposed to get more snow later."
After dinner, Clark took a quick, sex-preparing shower, threw on jeans and a t-shirt, grabbed his leather coat and went to collect Lex. They secured Lex's skateboard in the bed of Clark's truck and got underway.
"You know," Clark said as he pulled out of the driveway, "with you being legally alive again and earning a paycheck, you should probably find a new place to live."
Lex unzipped the front of his canvas coveralls and took off his bright green hat. "Why?"
"You're going to need a permanent address for things like getting a bank account, a new social security number, and paying taxes." Clark looked over at Lex. "You can't stay in the KentCorp sub-basement forever."
"I'm supposed to stay put until someone comes for me."
Clark's chest clenched. "I don't think anyone's coming, Lex."
"I know," Lex whispered sorrowfully, head bowed, twisting the hat in his hands. "But I keep hoping."
Clark put his hand on Lex's thigh and squeezed gently. "We can leave another note with your new address. Plus, if you have your own place, then you'll be in the phone book and you'll be even easier to find."
Lex dashed his wrist across his eyes. "I didn't think of that."
"So," Clark flicked on his turn signal, glancing at the headlights in the rearview mirror, "where do you think you'd want to live: in an apartment, or maybe a trailer like Kyle had?" Lex couldn't get a house without having a credit rating, unless, perhaps, Clark's parents would be mortgage co-signers.
"Could I live with you?"
"I don't think that's possible," Clark said, ignoring the mushy feeling he got.
"Oh. Okay," Lex said quietly.
Clark's hand clenched on the steering wheel and he forced himself not to pull over, gather Lex in his arms, and protect him from the world. "A twenty-one year old should have a place of his own, anyway. Don't worry, I'll help you find something."
Clark turned into the KentCorp plant and parked in the side lot. Lex put on his hat, pom-pom bobbing, and met Clark at the back of the truck. Clark unloaded the board. "I'll see you tomorrow. Rickman should be sending your stuff and you'll have to go through it."
Lex nodded, holding the board awkwardly in his arms.
"Okay," Clark said, closing the tailgate. "See you then. 'Night."
Clark got back in the truck and pulled away. He saw Lex in the rearview mirror, tromping through the snow, heading for the back of the building.
Snow began falling, as Clark turned out of the KentCorp lot. He passed a somewhat familiar-looking truck pulled over on the side of the road, but saw no one inside so he didn't stop. He made good time to Russo's house and all thoughts of Lex vanished from his mind in a controlled haze of lust and fornication.
Clark climbed the steps to the loft and tossed his leather coat on the couch. The glow of the clock told him it was a little after midnight. He switched on a lamp, stretched with catlike grace, and smiled like he'd caught the canary. He shed his shirt, scratching his shower-damp belly, as he fetched Willowbrook's book and spread out in the hammock. Good sex made him lazy, but not tired. He set the hammock swinging and delved into the book.
It wasn't long until he got to the page with the spiderweb-shaped pictograph with the alien symbols. The octagonal hole in the center drew his eye. He felt a strong pull of curiosity, wondering if the key to his ship would fit in the hole and what would happen if he put it there.
Clark rose and dug through his dresser drawer until he found the muted silver-colored key. The symbols etched in the surface matched identically to the ones within the spiderweb in the picture.
His investigative gene acted up and he was at the Kawatche caves before he knew it. He spared a brief thought for the sensor alarm triggering, but it would take Joseph at least ten minutes to arrive and Clark wanted to speak with him, anyway, so he didn't fret about it. He'd thrown on an old sweatshirt, at least, and could say he'd ridden Lex's board to explain his lack of vehicle.
Up close, Clark's curiosity increased, and he traced his finger along the smooth edges of the cut hole in the wall. The lightbulb hanging in the side chamber illuminated the symbols painted on the craggy surface of the cave. Taking a fortifying breath, he matched the symbols on the key with the ones on the wall and placed the key in the hole. It fit perfectly.
The consequences were immediate. The symbols on the key glowed red, yellow, and blue. The wall lit up with a golden glow, as if lights had been turned on behind the symbols on the cave's surface. Before Clark's eyes, the key turned on its own, first left, then right, then left again, like a combination lock. There was no sound outside of Clark's breathing when the key abruptly vanished and the hole opened.
Clark leaned forward, peering into the inverted triangle-shaped hole, and was nearly blinded by a bright, white light suddenly flaring. He stepped back, startled, and before he thought to move out of the way, a beam of light shot out of the hole and pierced his chest.
Clark cried out in surprised pain, body jerking, as the stream of white light passed through him. It felt like meteorite pressed against the center of his chest, burning through his skin. Pinned like an insect, the stream prevented him from doing anything but making agonized sounds. His body left the ground, lifted by the light, and dangled uselessly in the air.
His eyes rolled up and a blurred rush of colors ran through his mind's vision. His stomach revolted, turning over with nausea. Icy cold needles of pain pierced his lungs.
Then, suddenly, everything went black.
Clark's whole body ached and a charred smell assaulted his nose when he returned to consciousness. He lay on the cave floor, rough hands touching his wrists, his neck, and his forehead. He moaned and pried his eyelids open. Joseph knelt beside him, worry creasing his weathered face.
"You gave me a scare, Clark," Joseph said, assisting Clark to sit up.
Clark rubbed his chest, where it hurt the worst, and was surprised to find his sweatshirt unmarred. Sliding his head beneath his shirt revealed unblemished skin under his fingertips. "What happened?"
"I was going to ask you that," Joseph said. "Jeremiah and I came after the alarm activated and found you on the floor.
Jeremiah, a younger, Native American, danced his hands frenetically over the symbols on the cave wall, in front of them. "These symbols are different. Some of them I've never seen before."
"What?" Clark said. He felt the key under his hand as he started to rise, palmed it, and stuck it in his pocket unobtrusively.
Joseph did not appear surprised by the revelation. "A new message to replace one that has been read."
Jeremiah turned to look wildly at Clark. "What did you do? How did the writing change?"
"I- I don't know," Clark lied, staring wide-eyed at the new pattern of symbols on the wall.
Symbols he could read.
Kryptonian. The language of Krypton, a cold planet of ice and crystal turning under a red sun. A planet populated by males and females that were nearly identical to humans, regal in stature and flawless in beauty. Clark's ancestors.
Swallowing thickly, Clark looked away from the spiderweb pictograph, which was a combination lock to other chambers and niches in the cave, only to find he could read the other walls. He separated the Kryptonian from Kawatche at a glance, knowledge of language, history, and meaning behind the images coming to his mind as if he'd always known the information. A Kryptonian lizard known as Drazl that came from deep within the ice core of Krypton guarded one of the hidden caches in the Kawache caves. The Kawatche Matu existed, an energy-like species called Kryah that lived a symbiotic relationship with the Kryptonian people and animals, and one couldn't live without the other. He knew that, because of the yellow sun of earth, the Kryah gave Kryptonians extraordinary powers and invulnerability.
Clark knew Kryptonians were explorers and had been to earth many times. He knew how long it took a space-faring craft to traverse the distance between planets and where other inhabited planets could be found in the infinite galaxy. He knew which of those species were also space-faring and that earth had been chosen as a Kryptonian stronghold or refuge, if necessary.
"Jeremiah Willowbrook, this is Clark Kent," Joseph said, "and these caves belong to him."
Clark's gaze snapped to Joseph and he glared. Everyone under the sun was going to know his origins, at this rate.
Jeremiah eyed Clark with disbelief. "You think he is Naman?"
"Clark, Jeremiah is the future leader of the Kawatche and protector of these caves," Joseph told Clark. "Despite his disrespect, he is trustworthy."
Clark wasn't about to trust Jeremiah. "I'm just very interested in Kawatche history," he said. He came up with a quick lie, although, if Kawatche legend were to be believed, it would be the truth. "My ancestors may have been Kawatche.
Jeremiah's expression revealed he accepted that explanation well enough and also that he thought Joseph might be a bit senile. "I teach at Metropolis University. If you make an appointment, during the day, I could assist you in your genealogical research."
"Sure. Okay." Clark still wanted to talk with Joseph in private, now more than ever, but staying on Jeremiah's good side would guarantee access to the caves.
The cell phone in Clark's pocket vibrated, surprising him. Who would be calling him so late?
It was Pete. "Clark, man, I need your help. My girlfriend just tried to eat me."
"What?" Clark said into the receiver, walking away from Joseph and Jeremiah.
"Jodi tried to eat me like I was a charbroiled burger from Burger Heaven and then she ran off."
"Hold on, hold on. What do you mean, eat you?"
"Just that. She opened her mouth and it was like her jaw completely unhinged. She could have taken my whole head off in one bite."
"Where is she now?"
"I told you, she ran off. We need to find her, Clark."
"Okay. I'll start searching out along Creekside Drive."
"I'll check downtown. Call if you find her."
"Got it." Clark disconnected after Pete rang off. He rejoined Joseph and Jeremiah. "Sorry I caused you guys to come out here so late."
"It is no problem, Clark," Joseph said. "Please, call either Jeremiah or myself if you wish to speak more about the caves."
"I will." Clark shook Jeremiah's hand and left the cave. He checked to make sure he had no witnesses and then shot off at superspeed to search for Jodi.
He found her almost immediately by the Loeb Bridge, at the turn off to the KentCorp plant. In the waning moonlight, in the middle of the road, Jodi struggled with a gray wolf. The wolf's snarls echoed in the quite winter night. Snow fell heavily, slicking the pavement. Jodi's truck had skidded and hung up on the guardrail along the road. The front grille and hood were dented.
Clark rushed over, dropping into human speed and slipping in the snow. He used his momentum to skid right up to the fighting and back-armed the wolf off of Jodi. The wolf sailed through the air and hit the guardrail on the other side of the road with a pain-filled yelp. It landed in a snow pile at the base of the rail.
Clark offered a hand to Jodi. "Are you okay?"
"Get away from me," Jodi cried, curling into a fetal position. "I don't want to hurt anybody."
Clark crouched beside her. "Pete said you tried to eat him."
"I'm s-sorry," Jodi sobbed. "I didn't mean to! I was just s-s-so hungry."
"Jodi, look at me." Clark brushed his hand over her shoulder. "It's okay. I won't let you hurt me. But I need to know if you're injured."
"I'm okay." Jodi uncurled and sat up. Tears streaked her cold-reddened face. She wiped her running nose on her coat sleeve.
"Good," Clark said. "What's going on? I can help if you tell me."
"It's my diet," she said quietly, head bowed, blond hair tangled over her face. "The more I eat, the more weight I lose. I... I hit the wolf with my truck and was going to eat it, but it was still alive and attacked me."
Clark glanced at Jodi's truck, memory flicking. "You hit those deer and ate them, too."
Jodi nodded miserably. "Some livestock, too. I can't stop or I'll get fat again. My special diet shake isn't enough anymore."
"Special diet shake?"
"Uh-huh." Jodi sniffed. "It's how I lost weight at first. It's made from vegetables and crushed meteor rock powder."
Clark groaned mentally. It figured that the meteorites - kryptonite, his mind supplied - would be involved.
Jodi's stomach rumbled loudly and she hunched, clutching her middle. "I'm so hungry, Clark."
Clark sighed as he took out his cell phone and speed-dialed Pete. "I suppose you can eat the wolf...," he trailed off as he looked across the road. The wolf was gone. In its place lay a naked human in the snow.
"Clark?" Pete said over the line. "Did you find her?"
"Stay here," Clark told Jodi, handing her the phone. She began talking to Pete. Clark rose and cautiously approached the body.
It was Kyla.
Clark stared in shock. Kyla was the wolf?
"The first visitor from the stars supposedly brought special green stones and they had really strange effects on the people."
Clark looked heavenward. Another mutant. Was anyone left unaffected by the meteorites?
Kyla coughed and Clark dropped to his knees beside her. She had large reddish-purple bruises on her. A rapid x-ray scan showed she had several broken ribs. She opened her eyes as Clark stripped off her sweatshirt. Her skin was turning blue from the cold. "Clark?"
"Yeah, it's me. Don't move," Clark said, draping his sweatshirt over her.
Kyla ignored his directive and sat up with a wince. "I feel like I've been hit by a truck."
"I think you were." Clark glanced back at Jodi and his brows furrowed when he saw her wearing a familiar bright green hat with a pom-pom on top. "You're lucky you weren't eaten. Let me get my phone and I can call an ambulance."
"No." Kyla grabbed his arm. "Just take me home."
"Kyla, you're hurt," Clark said.
Kyla looked steadily at him. "You, out of everyone, Naman, understand why I can't go to the hospital."
Clark's lips thinned but he nodded. "I don't have a car, but I'll see if I can arrange a ride."
Clark straightened and trotted back to where Jodi stood. Snow fell on his bare shoulders and chest. He needed to get both girls inside before they got frostbite. Jodi glanced up at him from beneath her bangs. "Pete's on his way. Where did the wolf go? And where did that girl come from?"
"Long story." The hat distracted Clark. There were holes and snag lines in the knit and a brownish stain on one side. "Is that your hat?"
Jodi ducked her chin timidly. "No. It was on the ground. My ears were cold. Is it yours? You can have it back."
"You found it?" Clark said. The hairs on the back of his neck rose.
Jodi took it off and held it out to him. "Here. Sorry."
Headlights flashed as Pete drove up, pulling to a stop a short distance away. In the headlights, the brown on the hat was more reddish and wet. Clark sniffed the stain and then tasted it with the tip of his tongue. The coppery tang of blood drew his head back sharply.
Pete's car door slammed and he hurried over to Jodi. She started crying. "Keep away, Pete."
"Not a chance," Pete said, embracing her tightly. "In fact, I have something for you."
Clark nibbled his lower lip as he crossed back over to Kyla. It couldn't be Lex's hat, could it? He looked worriedly in the direction of the KentCorp plant and put the hat in his pocket. As soon as he took care of Kyla and Jodi, he'd check on Lex, just in case.
Clark helped Kyla over to Pete's car. Pete's brows lifted high. "You two aren't wearing any clothes."
"No kidding," Clark said, closing the rear passenger door behind Kyla. He saw Jodi eating something from the trunk.
Pete glanced at Jodi. "I swiped a butchered pig from the Save-Mart, just in case I found her first."
"Good thinking," Clark said, thumbing speed dial on his cell phone. "When she's done, take us to my house. My parents will know how to help."
Clark left Kyla, Jodi, and Pete with his folks a half-hour later and headed out to Lex's in his truck. "Bring him back with you," Jonathan had said, while Martha wrapped Kyla's ribs in another room. "He knows more about the meteorites than anyone."
"Kryptonite," Clark had corrected. "Irradiated rock from my home planet that came in the wake of my ship."
The snow fell more heavily and Clark's wipers smeared it wetly on his windshield. He drove slowly on the slick streets, passing Jodi's truck on the road leading to KentCorp. Closer to the plant, Clark saw the familiar-looking truck still parked alongside the road and realized whom it belonged to: Joseph Willowbrook. He knew Kyla had had it when she'd been at Clark's earlier, which explained how she came to be out there when Jodi had hit her. It didn't explain why, though. Maybe she just needed a place to park while she went out as a wolf?
Puzzle pieces clicked together in Clark's head, as he pulled into the KentCorp parking lot. The wolf sightings must've been Kyla. He'd bet the dates the wolf had been seen would coincide with her visiting her grandfather. And then there was Lana. Clark cursed, climbing out of the truck. Lana had been attacked by a wolf after she'd left Clark's house. He remembered Kyla had not been happy when Lana had interrupted them on Thursday night.
An icy tendril of dread crept up Clark's spine and he quickened his stride. Kyla had also not been happy with Lex and the bracelet.
Clark ran around the corner of the building, stumbled, and let out a shout. "Lex!" He rushed over to the form partially covered by newly fallen snow. The skateboard lay on its side nearby.
Clark brushed the snow away, panicking when the fresh white powder became stained red. He got Lex uncovered and froze momentarily in horror, a whimper catching in his throat.
Lex lay half-curled in the snow, mangled hands up near his face. The side of his neck was torn, exposed muscle shining like gristle on meat. Blood soaked the canvas coveralls at the collar. Four parallel gashes ran from scalp down the right side of his face. Gashes that looked like they came from a claw mark.
Clark made a pained, inhuman sound, snapping out of his dismay. Lex's skin was tinged blue from the cold and lying in the snow for hours, possibly since Clark had dropped him off. Clark could see tendrils of air visible like smoke coming from Lex's parted, deep blue lips, proving Lex was alive and breathing. Clark had to rub his coat sleeve across his eyes before he could examine Lex more closely. Telescopic vision showed Lex's neck no longer bled, microscopic tendrils of sinew knitting together rapidly as Lex's body healed itself. With x-ray vision, Clark saw the bones in Lex's fingers crisscrossed with tiny black lines, the chewed digits repairing themselves with mutant speed.
Clark didn't see any further injury, so he scooped Lex up in his arms and carried him to the truck. Lex's head lolled, dropping back exposing the torn flesh of his neck even more. A wordless cry came from Clark's lips and he had trouble forcing himself to release Lex long enough to drive home. Lex's skin was so cold...
The truck ride seemed to take an eternity, but Clark was too afraid to run with Lex and possibly hurt him further. He pulled right up to the greenhouse doors, knowing that was where his parents would be. He cradled Lex carefully and brought him to the lab. Jonathan and Martha were both there, along with Pete, Jodi, and Kyla.
"Oh, my goodness!" Martha exclaimed. She began clearing what Clark hadn't knocked off of the metal lab table, as he laid Lex down on it. "What happened?"
A dark red haze washed over Clark's vision when he looked at Kyla. Pure fury exploded in his chest. "YOU DID THIS!" he bellowed, and leapt towards her.
Kyla stumbled back in fear, knocking a lead container off the counter behind her and onto the floor. The lid opened and glittering shards of green kryptonite spilled onto the floor.
Nausea struck Clark but the red anger in his vision remained. When he was close enough, he drew his arm and punched her in the face. "Clark!" Jonathan shouted.
Kyla's head snapped back with the blow, but the kryptonite weakened the impact. She yelled in pain, cupped her hand over her cheek, and stared fearfully at Clark.
Jonathan and Pete grabbed Clark and dragged him backwards. He struggled futilely, hampered by the affects of the spilled kryptonite. "You fucking bitch! I'm going to kill you!"
"Jonathan, take him out of here," Martha ordered. Jodi was helping her remove Lex's snow-dampened clothing.
Clark's strength came rushing back beyond the lab doorway and he ripped out of Jonathan and Pete's hold. Snarling inhumanly, he charged back into the lab. Pete tackled him and they went down hard. Clark howled in agony and anger as he landed face-first on the spilled kryptonite shards.
The glowing green rock fragments burned his hands and face, making his veins crawl. His stomach tried to escape through his throat. Sapped of his strength, he struggled to rise. His mind was filled only with thoughts of retribution and violence.
Jonathan and Pete picked him up by his arms. He had trouble getting his feet under himself. He fought weakly against them, pieces of kryptonite falling from his face and hands. Kyla had pressed herself into the opposite corner of the lab, terrified.
"Clark, stop it!" Jonathan yelled. Joseph and Jeremiah appeared then in the doorway of the greenhouse annex.
"Grandfather!" Kyla rushed around the far side of the lab and threw herself into Joseph's embrace. "Naman has gone crazy!"
The last bit of kryptonite fell off Clark and enough of his strength returned that he managed to get away from Pete and Jonathan again. He spun and leapt for Kyla. Kyla screamed and buried her face against Joseph's chest. Jeremiah jumped between Joseph, Kyla, and Clark, tensed for a fight. Clark grabbed him, ready to throw him out of the way.
Clark's head whipped around at the broken rasp. Martha supported Lex, who was conscious and staring intently at Clark out of one good eye. Jodi hovered unobtrusively behind them.
Clark was beside Lex in two steps. His hand fluttered between Lex's face and bare shoulder, not alighting, afraid to touch. Lex's unzipped clothing pooled around his waist, his mangled hands lying in his lap.
Clark's red-coated gaze snapped to Kyla. "Get out of here and never come back. If I find out you've hurt anyone else, I'll skin your pelt and make a fur coat out of it."
"Are you threatening my cousin?" Jeremiah said angrily.
Clark bared his teeth. "Yes."
"Come, Jeremiah. Let us go home," Joseph said. He studied Clark for a long moment and guided Kyla out of the lab.
Jeremiah gave Clark a dark glare and left.
Lex shifted and made a pained whimper. Clark turned his attention to him. "You shouldn't be sitting up." Clark put his hand on Lex's chest, intending to push him gently down. He felt Lex's heart beating beneath his palm and closed his eyes, as the steady, strong thump soothed him.
Martha nudged him gently aside and continued pulling off Lex's wet clothing. The red haze faded, though Clark's anger at Kyla remained.
"What was that about, Clark?" Pete asked. "You don't usually try to beat up girls."
Clark glanced at Pete, who had an arm around Jodi protectively. Pete knew and believed about the Wall of Weird mutants and Jodi was one of them, now. Clark could explain without lying. "Kyla is a shapeshifter. She's the wolf who attacked Lana and Lex."
"You were attacked by a wolf?" Martha said to Lex. She had Lex almost fully undressed.
"Yes." Lex's skin had taken on a purplish tinge, the red flush of shyness mixing with the cold-causing blue. His damaged hands ineffectually covered his groin.
For once, Clark wasn't aroused by Lex's nudity. He did have the urge to stroke, and examine every inch of bare skin, but only for reassurance's sake.
Jonathan draped a red fire blanket over Lex's shoulders and then addressed Pete and Jodi. "Pete, why don't you take Jodi home? Tomorrow, we'll invite you and your father over, Jodi, and get you well again."
"Okay," Jodi said quietly, half-hiding behind her hair. The change in her appearance had not eradicated her shyness. "But what if I get hungry?"
"Don't worry, I still have the key to Save-More." Pete guided Jodi towards the door. "My brother's the manager. He'll understand."
After they were gone, Jonathan began cleaning up the spilled kryptonite. Martha opened the First Aid kit beside Lex. "Clark said you heal quickly, but are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital, Lex?"
"I don't like hospitals," Lex said in reply.
"All right. Since you don't seem to be bleeding, I'll do what I can here."
Clark hovered as Martha bandaged Lex. He growled softly every time Lex winced or whimpered in pain. "I'm going to kill her," he muttered.
"Why would Kyla have done this, honey?" Martha said. "She seemed like a nice girl."
"She thinks she's the woman painted on the cave wall. The one the Kawatche legend says is destined to be with Naman." Clark snorted derisively. "Unless she's hiding a dick in her pants, Naman isn't interested."
"Well, we all know that you create your own destiny," Jonathan said, putting the re-boxed kryptonite away. "No ancient graffiti is going to tell us otherwise."
"Actually, some of it's true." Clark's fingers itched to fix the spastic curl of Lex's hair. "There are Kryptonian messages mixed in with the Kawatche pictographs."
"Kryptonian?" Lex said, becoming interested.
"It's what my people are called," Clark said. "I took my ship key down to the cave earlier and opened the wall."
"What happened?" Martha asked.
"A beam of light shot out of the wall and, I guess, downloaded an encyclopedia of information to my brain," Clark said. "I know everything about where I come from now that earth's sun is why I have all these powers, and that there have been others of my kind visiting earth for thousands of years. But I still don't know who my parents were and why they sent me here alone."
Lex appeared fascinated, but Martha and Jonathan exchanged worried looks. "Do you think your ship might answer that question?" Jonathan said slowly, as if he hadn't wanted to say it.
"I didn't think of that." Clark smoothed his fingers over Lex's hair and curved his hand down to trace the shell of Lex's ear. "I can read Kryptonian now, so I can find out what it says in the pod."
Lex lowered his chin and smiled shyly. Clark dropped his hand, stepped back, and cleared his throat. "Let me go get the key."
Needing to regain his restraint where Lex was concerned, he zipped up to the loft, where he'd discarded his jeans earlier, and retrieved the octagonal key from the pocket. He stared at it, gleaming dully in the lamplight. He may have been holding the answers to his questions about who he was in his hand. After all this time, though, did he really want to know?
Yes. Even if the answer was horrible, he wanted - no needed - to know. Like Lana with Henry Small, anything he could learn about his biological parents and how he had been like them was important.
Jonathan met Clark at the opened doors to the storm cellar, huddled in his winter coat. "Your mother almost couldn't stop Lex from joining us. She had to resort to abusing his shyness and not giving him his clothes."
Clark wanted to laugh, but he was suddenly too nervous. "I'll bring him down as soon as he's healed. I know he'll want to try and figure out how the ship works."
"I'm sure he will." Jonathan clapped him on the shoulder. "Ready to do this?"
"No," Clark admitted, and then went down the stairs.
The small teardrop shaped ship was half-hidden under a tarp in the back of the storm cellar. The first place tag they'd hung on it as a disguise peeked out from one side. Clark uncovered the ship and ran his hand over the seamless metal. The octagonal indentation where the key went called to him. He blew out a quick breath and put the key in the hole.
The metal bubble top of the ship opened at a speed only Clark could see. The inner pod, only big enough to cradle a toddler, glowed with symbols in a language Clark hadn't been able to read until now.
Kal-El, by the time you read this, we will be long gone. The core of our planet has broken apart. We are sending you away so that you may live. The ship has been programmed to bring you to Hiram Kent in a place called Smallville, Kansas, on earth. Your father knows you will be safe with him, as he has helped your father in the past.
There is so much I wish to say, but I am out of time. You are the last son of the House of El and soon you may be the last son of Krypton. There are few ships off-world and the Ministers refuse to believe the danger our people are in. Jor and I have been grounded, but you, my son, will be saved.
Jor says to seek out the Kawatche people in Kansas. They are guardians over the Kryptonian chamber of knowledge on earth. The chamber will instruct you on the ways and history of our people, as it was designed to remember Krypton if we were forced to forget. I fear that time has arrived.
Live well, Kal, and know that we loved you more than anything.
Your mother and father,
Lara and Jor-El
Clark closed his eyes, as the tears slipped down his face. "They loved me," he whispered.
Jonathan curved an arm around Clark's shoulders. "Then, they share something with your mom and I."
Clark turned in his father's embrace and hugged him tight. "I love you guys, too."
"We know, son."
Clark released Jonathan and dashed his eyes with his sleeve. "Let's go back to the lab." He wanted to tell his parents together. He also had an itch to see if Lex was okay.
The key slipped out easily. Clark pulled the tarp over the pod and they left the cellar. Jonathan held the back of Clark's neck in a gentle grasp as they walked through the snow to the greenhouse.
Clark's gaze sought Lex immediately, sweeping over his battered body. A large white patch covered Lex's right eye. Butterfly bandages held closed the claw marks on his face. The ghastly, unbound wound on his neck looked almost fake with the blood cleaned off.
Martha bathed Lex's hands with gentle swipes of peroxide. Lex hissed and wrinkled his nose with every wipe. A low growl rose from Clark's throat.
Jonathan's hand tightened on the back of Clark's neck. "We're back."
"Well?" Martha sounded calm, though worry-lines bracketed her mouth.
Clark forcibly relaxed his shoulders. Jonathan squeezed lightly and let him go. "The message is from my parents - my biological parents. They sent me here because their planet was going to be destroyed. They- um, they're dead."
"Oh, honey." Martha put down the wipes, shed her protective gloves, and hurried to embrace Clark.
Clark saw sadness on Lex's face, as he hugged his mother back. He closed his eyes. "Their names were Lara and Jor-El," he said, his voice rough. "They named me Kal. My name was Kal-El."
"I'm glad you got to find out," Jonathan said comfortingly. "I know you've always wondered who you were."
"No, Dad, I've always known who I am." Clark released Martha and gave her and his dad a strong smile. "I'm Clark Kent: son, friend, journalist, lover," his eyes flicked involuntarily to Lex, "student, and alien. And I wouldn't want to be anyone else, on any world."