Late Season 5
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me
I should never have come back to Smallville.
It was Pete Ross' first thought as he slowly struggled his way back to consciousness. He could taste blood in his mouth, could feel a throbbing pain in his head, and he had to force his eyes open.
He was in a large, dim space. He'd been living in the suburbs of Wichita with his mom, who was a federal judge, for the past couple of years, but he'd lived in Smallville for his whole life before that, and he knew what a barn smelled like. He was in someone's barn. Which didn't tell him a whole hell of a lot, since Smallville was chock full of barns.
He tried to stand up and discovered he was tied to a chair.
Figures, he thought bleakly. They always tie you up when they want to beat the crap out of you.
Although they'd already beaten the crap out of him, as he recalled. He'd gotten out of his car at the Kent farm, eager to see his friends Clark and Chloe again, looking forward to spending the day with them, when suddenly two big guys had materialized out of the barn and grabbed him. He'd struggled, and yelled for help, but they'd clubbed him across the head a few times. That was the last thing he remembered.
Weird that Clark hadn't heard him and come running. Clark was an alien with superpowers, who could hear better than humans-- better even than dogs-- and he should certainly have heard Pete hollering for help.
Wonder if they've got Clark, too? The thought made him go cold. It was one thing for him to be in danger, and another thing for his friends to be in trouble. The thought scared him a lot worse than his own predicament.
He heard footsteps, and a second later one of the big guys stepped into his line of vision. Pete looked up, squinting through blurry eyes.
Damn, he thought. That's one hell of a big dude.
"Welcome, Mr. Ross," the guy said.
Pete glared at him. "What do you want?"
"We want to know everything you know about Clark Kent."
Oh, shit. He should definitely have stayed in Wichita. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
The guy took exception to his statement. Fifteen minutes later blood was running freely down his face, and he was a bruised mess. He gritted his teeth and kept his silence. No matter what they did to him, he wasn't going to spill Clark's secret. Clark was his friend, and he'd trusted him with the secret, and Pete Ross sure as hell wasn't going to be the one to give it up to these goons.
At last the big guy apparently got bored with clobbering him. "All right, Mr. Ross," he said. "Let's try this from a different angle."
Gasping for breath, Pete let his head loll forward. He heard more footsteps, and two more big guys came in, carrying a limp form.
Pete's eyes were almost swollen shut, but he could see well enough who they had. His big brother, Andrew. His oldest brother, the man he looked up to most in the world. The man he'd always hoped he'd grow up to be like.
They tossed Andrew's body onto the floor, and the first guy stepped toward him, pulling out a gun."Tell us what you know," he said, "or your brother gets a bullet in his brain."
Pete stared at his brother, dread and fear and confusion filling his chest. He had absolutely no idea what to do, couldn't figure out what the right thing to do in this situation was.
He'd sworn never to tell Clark's secret. But Andrew was his brother. And he had three little kids and a wife who depended on him. He couldn't let Andrew die, either. Panic rose up in his mind, making his heart pound wildly.
And then, all at once, something Clark had once said came back to him.
I couldn't let you get hurt because of my secret, Pete. I can't let anyone get hurt because of it.
All of a sudden Pete's panic died away. He felt very calm, as if Clark had been right next to him, whispering those words in his ear. Clark wouldn't want anyone to die protecting his secret, particularly not an innocent bystander. That wasn't the kind of person Clark was. He never put his own welfare over anyone else's, and he wouldn't want Pete to, either.
"Okay," he said. "Put the gun down. I'll talk."
Clark groaned as he drifted back into consciousness. His back was on fire, his veins burned like someone had injected him with acid, and his head throbbed with a relentless ache.
Overall, he'd been a lot happier when he'd been unconscious.
With a violent effort, he dragged his eyes open and saw his best friend Chloe Sullivan sitting beside him.
"You're awake," she said with a huge grin of relief. "Thank God."
"Unnnnhhhh," he answered, and wondered why the hell that noise had come out of his mouth.
"Don't try to talk. You were pretty sick. It's a good thing I came by when I did, or you might not have made it."
He blinked, bewildered by her statement. Might not have made it? As in, he might have died? But that was crazy, because nothing made him sick. And this morning had started out like any other. His mom was out of town, so he'd gone downstairs to the kitchen to grab a quick bowl of cereal before he started his chores. And then...
Things were a little fuzzy from that point on. He tried to gather his scattered memories together into a coherent whole. Something had broken the window glass. Yeah, he definitely remembered the window shattering everywhere. But glass couldn't hurt him, because he was invulnerable.
Something had hurt him, though, because he remembered falling to the ground, moaning with agony, and struggling desperately to get away from whatever was hurting him so badly.
"Kryptonite," she said, patting his arm. "Someone threw a chunk of kryptonite through the window."
"Kkkkk..." He couldn't make his mouth work. And he didn't understand that, because kryptonite never made him ill very long after it was removed. He could usually get up and walk around just fine once it was gone.
"It must have been underneath you for a long time," she said, continuing to pat him in a reassuring manner. "You were going into anaphylactic shock when I found you."
He wasn't sure what that was, precisely, but it didn't sound like a pleasant thing. "Ppp..." he said, or tried to.
"Pete? I don't know where he is. He was supposed to be here around ten, right? It's past two now."
Clark frowned. Maybe Pete had bailed because something had come up at the last minute. If he could just get up to check the answering machine... He tried to push himself into a sitting position, but his muscles totally ignored the commands coming from his brain.
"Relax," Chloe advised him. "I think it's going to take you a while to recover from this."
Why would it take a while? He wished he knew what was going on. His back still hurt like it was on fire, and he was pretty sure he knew the exact location of every last blood vessel in his body by the pain. He could draw a frigging diagram of his circulatory system right now, if he could just lift a pencil.
"Whaaa..." That sounded a little more like a word. He swallowed, noticing for the first time how dry his mouth was, and tried again. "Wha' happened?"
"Like I said, someone threw a meteor rock through the window. You fell on it."
Kryptonite tended to knock him off his feet pretty easily. He must have fallen on his back, which accounted for the horrible pain there. He wondered if it had somehow burned his skin.
Something Chloe said suddenly registered with him. Two o'clock. He'd gone down to the kitchen for breakfast around five a.m. If he'd been lying on kryptonite for seven hours, no wonder he felt like crap. He was damned lucky to be alive at all.
Something smelled bad, and he had a feeling it was him. He turned his head slightly and looked at the drying vomit on the floor. Hell. He really had been sick.
"I don't have a clue," she said. She got up and went across to the sink, her shoes crunching in the glass, and wet a towel, then walked back, sat down next to him, and began sponging off his face and hair. "No one was around when I drove up. And I can't imagine who would have done this. No one knows your secret except me and your parents."
"And..." He swallowed again and forced the word out. "Peeete."
"Pete wouldn't have done this either, Clark. You know that."
He did know that. He'd trust Pete with his life. And yet Pete wasn't here, and someone had tossed a chunk of the only substance that could kill him through his kitchen window. He had a bad feeling the two things might be related somehow.
"Someone else.... found out," he said, forcing the words out slowly and painfully.
"Looks like it," she agreed. "Although I guess it could be coincidence. Some kid vandalizing houses who just happened to pick up a meteor rock. But I don't think that's too likely."
She finished getting the worst of the puke out of his hair. He gritted his teeth, then slowly levered himself off the ground. It hurt like hell, but at least his muscles were listening to what he was telling them, to a certain, limited degree. He looked down at his arms and hands and saw that his blood vessels were still standing out beneath the skin, traced in black. Real attractive. He imagined his face looked pretty horrific right now. Thank God Chloe was used to strange things.
He managed to struggle into a sitting position, and Chloe gasped."Clark. Oh, God. Your back."
He tried to get a look over his shoulder, but just the act of turning his head made fire race down his back. He hissed in pain. "What's...wrong?"
Her skin was a pale shade of green. "It looks like a burn, Clark. A bad one. If you were human, I think you'd need a skin graft. As it is..."
"I think I'm getting better," he said, not without effort. "It'll... heal up."
"It's such a bad burn," she said softly, her eyes wide with horror. All of a sudden he was very glad he couldn't see his own back, because he had a feeling he didn't want to look at it. He'd probably pass out again.
"I'll be fine," he assured her, with more confidence than he really felt.
"I hope so," she whispered.
Read Chapter 3 here.