Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Here Without You, Chapter 9

Season 5, following my story "What the World Could Be," which followed "Void"
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me

Darkness wasn't as good as superspeed, but it was all Clark had to conceal himself with. Jonathan had wanted to take him downtown, to the sheriff's office so he could report his missing child, and then to the medical center to get his face looked at. He'd managed to convince Jonathan to drop him off, still wearing his borrowed clothing, near the Luthor mansion instead. The purple crystal was in one pocket of his jeans, and the octagonal key was in the other.

Jonathan had been worried, and perhaps a little suspicious, but Clark had explained he had an idea where the kid was. Jonathan had wanted to stay and help, and Clark had had a hell of a time getting rid of him. His father was nothing if not persistent.

Once he was alone, Clark had stealthily made his way to the heavily landscaped back yard and crouched in the bushes, waiting till dark to make his move. Thankfully, in this time period Lionel didn't stay in Smallville much, if at all, and the house and grounds were seriously understaffed. And he was grateful to find that there were no dogs on the grounds, because he couldn't possibly outrun a Rottweiler right now. He didn't want to wind up as dog chow.

Lionel never traveled without bodyguards, however, and there was one big, muscular guy stalking around the house despite the darkness, keeping an eye on the place. Clark's x-ray vision was still working, and he could see that the guy was packing two guns. Considering that the burn on Clark's face still hadn't healed, a bullet would probably go through him like a hot knife through butter. He didn't want to find out, so he needed to stay clear of this guy.

Clark had x-rayed the house several times. Lionel had a bodyguard in there, too, who was also loaded for bear.

And even worse, Lionel had the kid.

As far as Clark could tell, the kid-- he himself, although he couldn't think of the kid that way for some reason-- was okay. He seemed to have been put up in a spacious room (not that there were any small rooms in the mansion), and someone had evidently brought him some food, because Clark could see him eagerly devouring it. The kid wasn't being mistreated as far as he could tell. But the thought of being brought up by Lionel, instead of his own parents, creeped him out.

No, it scared the hell out of him. He'd been friends with Lex for a long time, before he and Lex had had their final falling out, and he'd seen with his own eyes that Lionel's version of parenting bore a strong resemblance to guerilla warfare. Lionel wasn't physically violent, but he was a master of emotional abuse.

The kid couldn't grow up that way. He just couldn't. He was going to be insanely strong and fast, and there was nothing to stop him from harming other people except for his upbringing. When he was on red K, Clark had turned nasty and violent, and he worried that if he'd been brought up by Lionel, he would have been that way from the very beginning.

Once Lionel discovered what the kid could do, he'd almost certainly use him as a weapon. And if Lionel had seen the spaceship, there wasn't much chance that he'd ever let the kid go. He'd hang onto him until he figured out how to use him.

Or he might throw him into a lab, dissect him, and eventually kill him.

At the thought, Clark doubled over and threw up again. He hadn't had any food today, despite the Kents' efforts to feed him, but his stomach insisted on rebelling every so often anyway. He didn't have much in his stomach to lose, though, so he was pretty much suffering from the dry heaves. He felt like crap, but he tried to ignore the nausea and concentrate on his mission.

Squinting through the walls, he studied the kid again. If Lionel was going to kill him, then he himself wouldn't be here, right? Just like in "Back to the Future," he should have disappeared entirely if the altered reality had resulted in his death.

But maybe not. Because nothing that had happened here matched his memories. If he had been brought up by Lionel, then why didn't he remember any of it? Shouldn't his memories have changed along with everyone else's?

But then again, his memories hadn't changed with the rest of the world last time, either. He still remembered Chloe, while no one else knew she'd ever existed. It was strange, like his destiny marched along regardless of the rest of the world. Like nothing could change what and who he was.

He remembered what Jor-El had told him: As a Kryptonian, you see and understand that which mere humans cannot.

It was like he was outside of time somehow, an observer instead of a participant.

The idea made his head swim, and he pressed his face against his knees, trying to fight back his nausea. At last his stomach settled, and he lifted his head and looked around carefully. The bodyguard had just disappeared around the corner of the house, heading for the front yard. It was an enormous old Scottish castle, brought across the Atlantic and reconstructed stone by stone, and it would take the guy some time to get back around.

Clark struggled to his feet, stood swaying for a moment, then took off toward the gardeners' shed at the back of the property.

Ordinarily he could have flashed across the manicured lawn in far less than a second. Tonight it seemed to take him a long, long time. He started out at a jog, but he was staggering and gasping for breath by the time he got to the old metal shed. He leaned his head against the door, sucking in oxygen, then put his hand on the door handle and yanked.

Naturally, the damn thing was locked.

Usually a lock meant nothing to him. Even the sturdiest padlocks could be crushed to dust in his hand. But he doubted he could crush a Cheerio right now. Even so, he gave it a try, wrapping his hand around the padlock and giving it a hard tug.

Nothing happened.

He growled under his breath and thought about what his human friends would do. What would Chloe do in a situation like this?

The simplest solution would be to break the thing open. He looked around and saw that there were some nice big rocks piled near the shed, the kind of rocks people used in gardens. He picked up one, shocked by how damn heavy it was. He held it with both hands and hit the padlock with it as hard as he could.

And then he swore lividly under his breath, because he'd inadvertently smashed his thumb, and it hurt like hell.

He stuck his thumb in his mouth, still swearing a blue streak, and looked at the padlock. The freaking thing was still in one piece, practically sneering at him. Great. He'd broken his thumb, but the lock was still perfectly intact.

But the rock had bashed a little hole in the door.

He looked at the door and realized it was pretty old and rusted. Even though he didn't have his strength, he was still a fairly big guy. Maybe if he threw his weight against it...

He stepped back a few paces, then charged at the door and slammed his shoulder into it. The old, rusty metal gave way with a groan, and Clark sprawled on his face in the shed, his nose and cheek coming into hard contact with the rough concrete floor.

He pushed himself up slowly, moaning. His shoulder hurt, his thumb hurt, and his face hurt. God, he missed his superstrength and his invulnerability.

I am never going to whine about wanting to be just like everyone else again, he thought. Being just like everyone else sucks.

Slowly and painfully, he pulled himself into a sitting position. He looked around the dark interior of the shed. In the shadows, he saw a small, roundish shape.

He'd found the spaceship.

Read Chapter 10 here.

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