Sunday, August 19, 2007
The End of Innocence
Manip by leothelion, used with permission of the artist.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Sequel to The End of Love
Freak Out, Part 3
"What would you do to save her, Clark?"
Clark Kent looked up at his erstwhile friend through pain-dulled eyes. Lex Luthor had once been his best friend, but they'd had a falling out. Apparently the memory of their friendship didn't mean much to Lex, because now that he believed Clark was a meteor freak, he hadn't hesitated to imprison Clark in a small cell and expose him to kryptonite radiation.
The radiation from green K made Clark extremely ill. He could feel the pain right down to his bones. Stabs of agony struck deep into his skull like red-hot iron spikes, and his stomach roiled with nausea. He felt terrible.
But obviously that wasn't enough for Lex. He evidently had something more in mind, something degrading, something intended to emphasize to Clark who was in charge here, and who was subservient.
Clark might be naive, but he wasn't stupid, and even through the blur of pain, he couldn't fail to notice the lustful gleam in Lex's eyes.
He'd seen it before.
But no matter what Lex wanted from him, no matter how much his body ached, his first priority wasn't to get himself out of here. He had to get his best friend Chloe Sullivan out of this place. He'd come to rescue her, and somehow he was going to accomplish that, damn it.
Even if he couldn't currently stand up.
He thought of what they might be doing to Chloe, thought of her in the same sort of agony he was experiencing, and the thought made him more desperate than ever. Somehow, he had to save her.
"Let her go." He tried to sound commanding and forceful, but the radiation from the meteor rocks had weakened him too badly. He couldn't speak in anything louder than a hoarse whisper.
"You're not in any position to be demanding anything from me, Clark."
In fact, he was in an extremely bad position, in more than one way, and he knew it. When they'd thrown him into the cell, he'd struggled to get up and failed, and now he was on his knees, his back against the wall. The absolute last place he wanted to be was here, kneeling at Lex's feet like a supplicant, or a...
He chopped that thought off before it went any further. No matter how desperate he was to get Chloe out of Lex's hands, he wasn't making any bargains, of a sexual nature or otherwise, with Lex.
He had the strong certainty that no matter what he agreed to, Lex would just betray him anyway. Lex had obviously developed an enormous hatred and fear of meteor freaks, and he certainly wasn't going to set one free in exchange for a few moments of physical pleasure.
A wave of nausea rolled through him, and he shuddered and set his jaw more tightly, fighting back the sickness. Lex's thin lips curved in a cold smile, and he looked down at Clark, his steel-gray eyes glittering with unmistakable desire.
"I won't listen to demands, Clark," he said, his voice low and silky. "But if you're willing to offer me a bargain... I'm all ears."
"I would do anything to save my wife." Dr. Raston stood in front of Chloe's cell. His eyes were wide and wild, and not for the first time, she thought he looked quite insane. "Anything at all."
She could relate to that. Apparently her best friend Clark had been captured and was being held in a different block of cells, and she knew she'd do just about anything to save him, too. Clark meant everything to her.
Not that she and Clark were married, or even dating. Their relationship was-- complicated. Too close to be friendship, and yet purely platonic.
Well, almost purely platonic.
But undefinable as their relationship was, they depended on each other, relied on each other, defended each other. She'd do just about anything to save Clark Kent, and that included making deals with the devil.
And Dr. Raston was the devil. Desperate to save his wife though he might be, there was absolutely no doubt in her mind that he was Satan personified. Some of the things she'd seen him do to other meteor freaks had sickened and appalled her.
And some of the things he'd ordered done to her had made her hate his guts.
She could understand his desperation, his willingness to do anything to save his wife, but she couldn't allow herself to fall into the same trap. She knew Clark wouldn't want to be saved at the expense of anyone else. So as frantic as she was to save Clark, she swore to herself she wouldn't let anyone else get hurt in the process.
She wouldn't turn into a Dr. Raston, damn it.
"Fine," she said at last. "Let me go, and help me get Clark out of this, and I promise I'll save your wife."
"No." Dr. Raston shook his head, so that his messy, too-long hair flew. "I can't risk Lex finding out about this until after my wife is saved. I've worked too long and too hard to find a freak like you."
Chloe stood up and stalked toward the bars. "First of all," she said through her teeth, "don't call me a freak. When you want a favor from someone, you don't insult them. And second of all, how do you dare to say you've worked hard? You've worked hard torturing people. Killing people. If you think you've had it rough, you should look at the world from the other side of the bars."
Raston sneered at her. "You are a freak, Miss Sullivan. You might not like the term, but it's accurate."
"You're supposed to be a scientist, Doctor." She let her voice get sharp. "A real scientist wouldn't indulge in emotionally loaded terms like meteor freak. My DNA has been mutated by exposure to the meteor rocks. That's an unfortunate medical condition, but it doesn't make me a freak."
"Fine. Call yourself whatever you want to call yourself, Miss Sullivan. You're among the meteor affected, and you have abilities I need. So let me remove you from your cell, and then I'll drive you to your house, and..."
"Not without Clark." Chloe crossed her arms and spoke firmly. "I won't heal your wife until you help me rescue my friend."
Raston looked frightened. "I can't. Don't you understand? Luthor is in there with him now."
"Doing what to him? Torturing him?"
An ugly gleam appeared in Raston's eyes. "I don't think torture is the first thing on Luthor's mind, no."
Chloe thought about that and decided she didn't really have to ask. She knew perfectly well that Lex wanted Clark, that he'd wanted him for a long, long time. Hell, the whole town had known it. And now that Lex had Clark at his mercy... well, she didn't have to guess what the first thing on his mind would be. She already knew.
"Okay," she said. "We need to get Clark out of here."
"Past Luthor? How exactly do you propose to do that?"
"Lex may have you intimidated," she said, "but he's just a man. A Taser would take him out. And don't tell me you don't have one. I've seen the guards use them on the inmates here when they get out of hand."
"But afterward... what Luthor will do to me..."
She leaned forward and stared into his eyes. "Do you want to save your wife's life, or not?"
She felt like the vilest of all possible human beings, bargaining with the life of a desperately ill woman. But she reminded herself that Clark was in very real danger, and that this was the only possible way to save him.
Raston stared back at her for a long moment, but at last he dropped his gaze.
"I'll see what I can find," he said.
There were no guards in sight as Chloe crept down the hall, a Taser in her hand. She moved stiffly, thanks to the cracked rib, but quietly. In the silence of this empty hallway, she could hear the sound of Lex's voice, contemptuous, sneering, and the low, rasping responses of a man in terrible pain.
There was only one cell on this hall, but even if there had been fifty, she would have known which cell Clark was in by the eerie green glow. In their inert state, green meteor rocks-- what Clark called green kryptonite-- were a dull, grayish-green. But when they were near Clark, they glowed with a brilliant light.
Dr. Raston slithered silently along behind her. He'd insisted on coming along, to make sure she survived-- not because he was concerned about her personally, but because he needed her healing ability-- and to make sure that once Lex was incapacitated, she wouldn't just take Clark and get the hell out of Dodge.
Which she very probably would have, given the opportunity.
No, she thought. As angry as she was at Raston, as creeped out as he made her, as much as she hated the sight of this damn prison, she couldn't walk away from his wife if she really needed help. She'd promised, and she wouldn't go back on her word.
Even so, the thought of trying to heal someone so close to death sent cold shivers down her spine. When she healed, she took on the other person's pain. It was temporary, but it wasn't at all pleasant. The first time her power had activated, she'd healed her dead cousin, and it had hurt like hell. She didn't like to think about what it would feel like to heal a terminally ill patient.
But she'd given her word, so she'd do it.
After Clark was safe.
As she moved stealthily across the iron floor, drawing closer to Clark's cell, she heard him pleading.
"Lex... no... please don't make me..."
Son of a bitch, she thought grimly. She didn't have to peer into the cell to know what Lex was trying to force Clark to do. She paused, just out of Lex's sight, and saw that Lex hadn't bothered to close the door behind him, probably because an iron door was irrelevant as far as Clark was concerned. It was the radiation from the green K that kept him confined, not a few iron bars.
Okay, she thought. This should be easy.
All she had to do was dart into the cell before Lex knew she was there and stun him. Piece of cake.
She just hoped being Tasered hurt Lex, quite a lot. After everything he'd done to her, after everything he'd done to everyone here, after what he was trying to do to Clark... he deserved some pain.
She crouched there for a moment, gathering her resolve, then flung the door open and darted into the cell.
Lex was already spinning around as she burst into the small space. Lex had martial arts training, as well as a substantial quantity of innate paranoia, and it wasn't easy to take him by surprise. And unfortunately, she wasn't moving as fast as usual, thanks to her bruised and battered condition.
She thrust the Taser at him. He dodged it and struck at her, hard.
His fist slammed right into her injured rib, and she doubled over and went to her knees. The Taser dropped out of her slackened grasp, slamming against the metal plating of the floor and skittering away, out of her reach.
"Not smart, Chloe." Lex glared down at her, looking pissed. Which wasn't surprising, considering that she'd interrupted his moments alone with Clark. "Not smart at all."
"Leave..." She could barely draw a breath, could hardly speak. Her ribs felt like they were on fire. She spoke in a rasp. "Leave Clark alone."
"I don't think so. I have plans for Clark." Lex smiled down at her, and there was something in his eyes that frightened her, something darker and colder and emptier than space itself. "Maybe you'd like to watch."
She definitely didn't want to watch. She remembered hearing Clark's soft pleading as she'd approached the cell, and knew she couldn't stand watching Lex hurt him, or rape him.
Lex looked down at her, his mouth still twisted in a sneer, then drew back his foot and kicked her viciously, right in the ribs. She yelped and curled up in a ball, trying instinctively to protect herself. She heard a low, feral snarl from Clark, but there wasn't much he could do to help her, not when he was exposed to this much kryptonite.
Where the hell was Raston? The little coward, she thought with disgust. He'd obviously been too afraid of being caught in a betrayal. He'd probably decided to let her be captured, and would try to free her again later.
But later would be too late for Clark, damn it.
"Leave... him... alone," she ground out.
"Don't tell me what to do!" Lex spat out. The cool detachment that ordinarily characterized his speech faded, and suddenly he sounded infuriated. His voice was filled with loathing. "You're only a meteor freak. You're not human. And you don't dictate to me, damn it!"
He drew back his foot for another kick, and Chloe couldn't help herself. She cringed, anticipating another burst of pain.
But the kick never landed.
Lex suddenly sagged, then crumpled onto the metal flooring with a loud thud. Chloe lifted her head, gasping with relief.
Thank God. Raston finally backed me up.
But Raston wasn't in the cell. The Taser was gripped in a big hand, and she saw Clark kneeling on the floor, staring at her. His eyes flared a brilliant green, glowing almost as brightly as the meteor rocks did. He looked well and truly pissed.
"Clark," she whispered. "You made it across the cell... even with the kryptonite, you moved..."
"I only had to crawl a few feet." He sounded drained and exhausted, but his eyes still sparkled dangerously as he looked at her. "I guess I was pretty mad."
"I guess so." Ordinarily a few feet might as well have been ten miles. Kryptonite tended to knock Clark off his feet for the count. The fact that he'd been mad enough to get to Lex, to defend her... well, it made her heart swell, in a way she didn't want to examine too closely.
Clark put the Taser down and reached out a hand, stroking her hair gently. "You okay, Chlo?"
"Yeah." She struggled to get to a sitting position, trying not to wince too much. She didn't want to upset Clark any further. "I'm just... broken rib, I think. Maybe two. I'll live."
His eyes glowed with fury, brighter than before. "I'm going to kill Lex."
She was fairly certain that was hyperbole, but it still worried her, because it wasn't like Clark to talk that way. Apparently seeing Lex kick the shit out of her had thoroughly ticked him off.
Lex Luthor had once been his best friend, and she was pretty sure that up until today, he'd harbored the hope that Lex could be redeemed. Clark had always been naive, almost innocent, about human nature, and she was pretty sure that despite everything Lex had done, Clark had hoped Lex would someday step back into the light.
But after everything Clark had seen today, she was pretty sure he no longer considered it possible to save Lex. Judging from the angry light in his eyes, Clark now considered Lex a mortal enemy.
"Take it easy, Clark," she said. "Leave him alone. Let's just get out of here, okay?"
Clark tried to get to his feet, and failed. "I don't think I can, Chlo."
She considered the problem. Under the impetus of anger, he'd made it a few feet, but without adrenaline to drive him, he was almost helpless around kryptonite. "Can you crawl?"
He tried, then gave up, gasping, and shook his head. "I can't... I just can't move, Chlo. It hurts too much."
"Forget about him." The new voice came from the door, and Chloe looked up, seeing Raston standing there, glaring down at them with cold eyes. Now that the danger's past, the rat's poked his nose out of his hole, she thought sardonically.
"I won't forget about him," she said, coldly. "I told you, I won't do a damn thing for you or your wife till he's safe. Help me get him to his feet."
"As big as he is?" Raston shook his head. "Even the two of us working together can't get him up."
Chloe had the uncomfortable feeling that Raston was right, but she wasn't going to leave Clark here. They needed to get out of here, and fast, before the guards noticed something was up. If she had to drag him out bodily, she'd do it. Clark had risked his life to save hers, and she wouldn't do less for him.
And that gave her an idea.
She looked at Clark, then put a hand onto his shoulder and concentrated. Terrible pain, excruciating waves of agony, flowed into her, and she gritted her teeth and tried not to cry out.
Clark lifted his head and blinked at her. "Hey... I feel..."
"Get up," she whispered, trying to hold back her tears. God, was this what Clark felt every time he was exposed to kryptonite? It was like nails driving through her brain, fire on her skin, vicious teeth biting deep into her muscles and bones. It was every pain she'd ever imagined, and then some. It made the pain in her ribs feel like a skinned knee by comparison.
Clark moved, getting to his knees easily, and then he scooped her into his arms and lifted her. She kept her hand on his shoulder, absorbing his pain, and gritted her teeth to stop herself from shrieking with the agony that seemed to be consuming her.
"Get us out of here, Clark," she whispered.
There was a whoosh, and suddenly the awful pain ebbed. Chloe lifted her head from his shoulder and found that they were outside in the woods, a long distance from the iron bars that had imprisoned her. She blinked against the unaccustomed brightness of sunlight, and drew in her first breath of fresh air in far too long a time.
Clark stared down at her, his eyes vivid in the afternoon sun.
"Are you okay now?"
"Yeah." She nodded shakily. "Once we got away from the kryptonite, the pain faded, just like it does for you."
He looked puzzled. "Did you heal me permanently? I mean... do you think kryptonite won't hurt me any more?"
"No." She shook her head. "I tried, but the way you respond to kryptonite is coded into your DNA, Clark. It's all tied up with who you are and what you can do. I can't fix things like that. I can heal injuries, and sickness, but if the problem's in your DNA, I can't alter it. I just took your pain, Clark. That's all."
"You saved me," he whispered.
She dropped her head against his shoulder in a gesture of affection. "And you saved me. So I guess we're even."
His big hand stroked her hair, and she shut her eyes, wishing she could stay in his arms forever. They were silent for a long moment, enjoying their freedom, enjoying being together.
"I guess we need to go talk to the police, before Lex wakes up," he said at last. "Get them out here before he has a chance to get rid of all the evidence."
Chloe nodded tiredly. Considering that getting rid of all the evidence very probably meant murdering all the meteor freaks, she was totally in favor of that. They needed to get the police out here fast, before Lex could accomplish one of his patented disappearing acts.
"Okay," she agreed. "You zoom off to the police station, then. But I can't go there, not now. I have something I have to do first."
Clark stared at her. "Like what?"
She sighed. The thought of putting herself back into Dr. Raston's hands scared the hell out of her, but she knew she couldn't have gotten Clark out of the lab without Raston's help. She owed him one. And besides, she'd promised.
"I have to go back, Clark."
"Back?" He looked horrified. "Why?"
She looked up into his eyes, and sighed.
"Someone needs my help," she said simply.
Posted by Meg at 8:35 AM