Season 5, after "Fanatic"
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me.
Read this story from the beginning.
Read the previous chapter.
"I've got good news and bad news."
Clark looked up from his sociology textbook as Chloe came up the stairs. She looked very serious, and he managed to restrain his infatuated grin in favor of a more solemn expression. "What's up, Chlo?"
"You were right." She walked across to him and put a hand on his shoulder, looking down at him, her lips set in a thin line. "We should have set those prisoners free."
He blinked at her. "I thought the cops were going right over to take care of it."
She scowled. "They claim to have gone over there less than an hour after we left, but they found the place already cleaned out."
"What? Chloe, that's impossible."
"Of course it is. Obviously someone on the force is on Lex's payroll." She sighed. "You were right. We should have let them all go."
"No, Chlo. You were right. We couldn't just let them go without knowing more about them. A lot of meteor freaks are dangerous. They might have all been from Belle Reve, for all we know."
"But if we'd let them go..."
He sighed. "We didn't have any way of knowing there was a dirty cop on the force, did we?"
"We should have guessed. Lex always has all his bases covered."
"Yeah, maybe we should have. Still, I don't think we could have just let them all go without checking into it further. For all we know, they were all dangerous." He frowned. "So do you think the place was really cleaned out, or are the cops just lying about it?"
"Trust me," she said. "They're gone. Apparently Lex's plant on the force stalled them long enough to give Lex time to get it all cleared out. Because I went over there today, and the place is just an empty warehouse now."
"You went over there? By yourself?"
She looked mildly annoyed by his tone. "I'm an investigative journalist, remember? Investigating is what I do."
"Yeah, but walking into a place like that by yourself is nothing short of crazy, Chlo. Next time, call me."
"You were in class."
"I don't care. Call me, damn it. I'm not letting my girlfriend get killed because she didn't know how to ask for backup."
"Um, about that word..."
"Girlfriend?" He quirked an eyebrow. "Do you have a problem with that word? Would you rather I just refer to you as the girl I have hot sex with?"
She dropped her gaze, looking as uncomfortable as it was possible for Chloe Sullivan to look. "Well, the thing is, you've kind of already got a girlfriend..."
He reached out and squeezed her arm, very gently. "Not any more," he said. "Lana and I had a little talk this morning, and agreed to go our separate ways."
She looked at him from beneath her fringe of long, dark lashes. "Clark," she said, tentatively. "You've always been in love with Lana."
"Maybe. Kind of. But the truth is, we've both kind of moved on. I've got you, and she sort of hinted she'd gotten together with another guy."
"Another guy? Really? Who?"
"No idea. I didn't ask."
Chloe looked intrigued. "Do you think maybe she had the dreams, too? Maybe she made a move on someone she wanted because of the dreams. But no... that wouldn't make sense, would it? Because I'm sure you were her deepest desire."
"Maybe not. Maybe we were both kidding ourselves. Maybe she and I never really loved each other that much."
"Maybe." She frowned. "Or maybe whatever Sara made us dream wasn't really our deepest desire, after all."
"Wrong," he answered flatly. "You're my deepest desire, Chlo. You always have been. I don't have any doubt of that any more."
"For all we know that was just something Sara made you believe somehow..."
"No." He spoke firmly. "Somewhere down inside me, you've always been the one I wanted, Chlo. As far as I'm concerned, there's no one like you."
She hesitated, then lifted her gaze and looked at him with a shy smile. "Yeah," she said softly. "Me too."
Her lips were parted, her eyes soft and luminous, and he wanted to grab her, drag her down onto his lap, and kiss her, then move on to other, more intimate activities. But he restrained himself. "My parents think so too, by the way."
"Yeah. My dad's not stupid, you know. He figured out what I was doing in the barn. I mean, he heard us."
"I don't think it took superhearing to hear us," she said dryly.
"Yeah, I guess not. Anyway, he was pretty upset with me this morning, and he started to give me the sex lecture. He thought I was, uh, with Lana. But when he found out it was you... well, I won't say he was cool with it, because he's still not happy about the whole sex before marriage thing. But he calmed down a whole lot."
"Really. He says he's always thought you and I were meant for each other."
She blinked, very hard, and he reached out and squeezed her hand. "So," he said. "What's the good news?"
"You said you had bad news and good news. What's the good news?"
"Oh." She smiled. "I talked to my sources-- which in this case means my Uncle Sam-- and found a safe place for Sara to stay, far away from here. She should be safe from Lex and LuthorCorp there. She left this afternoon, under military escort."
"Good job." He looked up at her, impressed. "You've had a busy day. Maybe a little later we can go out and have dinner."
"Clark." Her eyes widened in surprise. "Are you asking me out on a date?"
"Isn't that what girlfriends are for?"
"Well, yeah. That and hot sex."
"Chlo." He reached out and squeezed her hand. "Listen... I'm not going to deny I liked the sex thing a lot. But I don't want you to think that's all I want from you, okay?"
"Okay." Looking reassured, she smiled down at him. "Want to go ahead and take off to get dinner now?"
"Not yet." He closed his textbook with a thud and stood up. "There's something I have to do first."
"Where are they, Lex?"
Lex Luthor looked up as Clark came stalking into his study. Lex hadn't turned the lights on yet, and in the rapidly encroaching dusk, the dark-panelled room looked shadowed and murky. Lex leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers, a slight smile on his face.
"I see we're back to you walking into my house and throwing around wild accusations," he said. "It's really quite unfortunate. After your last visit ended on reasonably polite terms, I thought perhaps things might have changed between us."
"Where you're concerned," Clark said coldly, "things never change. What exactly did you do with your prison full of meteor freaks, Lex?"
"Meteor freaks? Prison?" Lex lifted an eyebrow. "Are you seriously accusing me of keeping people captive, Clark?"
"Don't play dumb with me, damn it. You were keeping them in that old warehouse out on Landrum Road. I walked through it myself, Lex. There were at least forty cells, and every one of them had a person in it."
"Clark." Lex gave him a sorrowful smile, as if Clark were deluded. "No one's used that warehouse in years."
Clark dropped his hands onto the desk's gleaming surface, leaned forward, and glared right into Lex's eyes. "You might be able to fool the cops, Lex, but not me. I know what you were doing there. I know you were experimenting on meteor freaks. Drugging them."
"Fine," Lex said. "If you have proof, then give it to your friend Ms. Sullivan and let her write a story on it. No doubt you have photos. Irrefutable documentation. Eyewitness accounts placing me at the warehouse. That sort of thing."
Clark hesitated, and Lex laughed softly.
"Even if there had been meteor freaks in that warehouse-- which sounds like a ludicrous assertion to me-- you have absolutely no proof that I'm behind it. No trail that even the intrepid Ms. Sullivan can follow." Leaning forward, he began sorting through a stack of papers on his desk. "Go back to the farm, Clark. You're wasting my time and yours."
Annoyed, Clark started to turn around. But then he hesitated.
"Tell me something, Lex," he said. "Why dreams?"
Lex looked up at him, arching an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"Like I said before, don't play dumb. You and I both know you were using Sara Conroy to try to induce dreams in other people. What I don't get is why. It's like you said last time we talked. It has no military application. No practical application that I can think of. So what was the point?"
Lex stared back at him for a long moment, his face stonily impassive. "I've never used anyone in the way you're suggesting," he said at last.
"Don't be rude, Clark. If I were to do such a thing... well, the fact is that sometimes the only way we can get what we want most is in our dreams. Sometimes you just have to settle for that."
Clark looked at him steadily.
"Lex," he said. "What is it that you most want?"
Lex gazed back at him for a long moment, his impassive facade in place. Suddenly it cracked, and he lowered his head, looking miserable.
"I have absolutely no idea," he whispered.
Suddenly Clark remembered Sara's voice: One person was awake. I still have his dreams.
Now he knew who that one person had been.
Sara still had Lex's dreams. He must have achieved whatever it was he most wanted, whatever he most deeply desired... and then Sara had taken those memories away from him.
And now that she was gone, now that she'd escaped his clutches... he could never get them back. He hoped Chloe was right, and that Sara was safe. They'd have to make sure they stayed in contact with her, and he'd have to check up on her every so often. Because Clark didn't trust Lex even under ordinary circumstances, and a desperate Lex was even more dangerous.
He'd have to keep a very careful eye on Sara. But he'd make sure she stayed safe, damn it. She'd been through enough in her lifetime, and he wouldn't let her be hurt again.
Despite his determination to protect Sara, in a strange way he pitied Lex. Lex had obviously used Sara's ability in the hopes of enhancing his own dreams, so he could experience vivid dreams of what he most wanted, without realizing that in the end, she'd steal them from him.
Clark remembered all too well the awful feeling of emptiness and loss he'd felt when the dragon had stolen his dreams, his desires, his memories from him. He couldn't help but feel a flicker of sympathy for Lex, who'd have to live with that terrible void inside him for the rest of his life.
But then he remembered the meteor freaks imprisoned in tiny cells, remembered the way Sara had been kept captive and experimented on and drugged, and his brief moment of pity faded.
If anyone deserved to suffer with that feeling of loss, of barren emptiness, he thought... it was Lex.
He didn't say another word. He left Lex sitting there, head downbent, and turned around, heading for Chloe, heading for everything he'd always wanted, deep down. Heading for his deepest desire. Heading for the woman he loved.
He left Lex sitting in his study in the shadowy darkness, alone and empty.