Author: Roxy ([info]roxymissrose)

Title: The Dog

Summary: This story is loosely based on the movie Danny The Dog.

It's the story of a boy who's stolen from his family and raised to be less than human and a little more than a pet. It's also the story of a boy who does his very best to raise himself to be a decent man.

The Dog by Roxy

(see the cover)

Chapter One

“Sooner or later we're all someone's dog”

--Terry Prachett

 

On a quiet June afternoon, Mr. And Mrs. Kent were on their way into the aptly named town of Smallville, the center of a small farming community in the southern part of Kansas.

They were a young couple just starting out, barely more than a year married and still unsure of exactly how to be with each other. They talked about nothing and enjoyed it, with a great deal of smiling back and forth, the oddly shy smiles of people who knew each other, but didn’t know each other.

Birds broke from the cover of the fields along the roadside, calling to each other, dipping and wheeling in black waves away from them and the suddenness and the sheer number of birds startled Martha Kent. Learning to live in the country was still a slowly unraveling mystery to her. Things her husband, Jonathan Kent, took for granted sometimes filled her with wonder, sometimes with sorrow…sometimes fear.

She turned to him, expecting to see a look of fond amusement on his face, a look she’d learned to see as part of the love he felt for her. Instead, he was frowning. “That’s strange at this time of year,” he began and suddenly the little truck rocked violently, and clouds of dust rose from the fields and rolled over the road. A moment later the ear-splitting shriek of a projectile dropping out of the sky deafened them both, Martha’s startled screams went unheard. She looked toward her husband and her heart was in her throat. How could she lose him when she’d just found him? She yanked at her seat belt as the cab tipped precariously, trying to free herself, her intention being to protect him from the missiles falling around them.

Jonathan pulled desperately at his seatbelt; fighting to get loose, he slammed against the window as the truck settled back on its four tires and bit his lip to keep from yelling aloud. He had to protect Martha, and in the silence of a momentary lull in the cosmic bombardment, he heard her panting, groaning with fear—he darted a look at her and saw—she was fighting the seat belt, trying to get free, get away. He cheered her on, ‘go, Martha, run’, even if the tiniest part of him felt a twinge of disappointment. She unlocked her seatbelt and turned—oh!--towards him—“No! Get out, get under the truck!”

“Don’t be stupid.” Her voice was harsh and thick with fear, and an instant later she was in his lap. “I’m not leaving you!”

What a miracle was taking place on that road--all around them the missiles fell screaming to the earth, throwing up long plumes of pulverized dirt and debris and not one hit the truck. Miraculously not a single piece penetrated the thin metal shell that protected two people made foolish by love. Miracles and tragedies were taking place all over Smallville that day.

Jonathan managed to unlatch his belt finally and force Martha behind him and the clouds of dirt settled slowly back to earth. In one second the world again made sense, normal June afternoon sounds began to break the eerie silence--bird song, confused and off beat but song--tentative barking in the distance as the farm dogs gathered their courage and expressed their outrage.

Martha and Jonathan stared at each other, amazed that they’d survived. They hadn’t expected to. Now, they had brand new lives handed to each other. Martha said, “We are going to have a baby, no matter what the doctors say.”

Jonathan nodded, wide-eyed and clammy with the horror of almost losing the one thing in his life that made any real sense. “Yes,” he said, his voice a dry scratchy whisper. If Martha said so, it must be true.

The truck started, another miracle, and they drove slowly back to the farm, carefully navigating the road.

In Smallville, people were coming together, searching each other out, and the total toll of the afternoon was taken. Some had died, some were injured—some disappeared never to be seen again.

Quietly, gradually, the town was about to undergo changes that would break it into bits, underneath, where it wouldn’t show for years to come.

The voice he loved the most in all the world called out to him, more beautiful than music floating in the air. It said, Kal-El, soon it will be time for you to wake, come let me instruct you.

Lara said so many things, taught him his name, and his father’s name and his father’s father’s name, and colors and songs and tales of heroes, but this was different—the tone was different. Wasn’t he awake? He turned to the little pavilion that was their favorite place and raced towards her shining form.

“Lara,” he laughed, “how can I wake up when I’m not asleep!” He picked a flower from the garden that grew around the structure for her, pink and aerl, because those were her favorite colors.

Come Kal-El. Sit here with me. She sat on the low broad wall that circled the pavilion. She poured water from a pitcher into a stone basin sitting on a base made to look like orelrins in flight, their wings and long serpentine necks entwined to provide a support for the bowl. Kal-el tucked the flower behind her ear and waited until she’d poured all the water in, then climbed on her warm lap, and snuggled against her. He loved the way she smelled, like the air and flowers and the lake that they swam in…clean and fresh. He didn’t even realize that he’d been drowsing until she said his name softly.

Look here, little one. She dipped her fingers in the shallow pool and agitated the water in the stone basin. The dark water shimmered and a picture began to form and Kal-El jumped off her lap and leaned over the basin. He loved looking at the pictures of the strange fairytale world Lara told so many wonderful tales about. His fingers gripped the pebbled edge as the image of the familiar blue ball swam in the pool, growing larger and larger until the image was that of a sea of green grass, so different from the curly aqua blades that cushioned his feet .The sun was a yellow globe high in the sky—again so different from the beautiful red sun that warmed and lit their world. This is your home, she said and Kal-el protested.

“This is home.” He waved his thin little arm around, “That’s a story.” He smiled, his black curls bounced around his face as he nodded vigorously and pointed at the pool, laughing at her. “It’s not real, silly!”

She shook her head. It is real dear, all the stories I told you are real, and soon you will be on your new home and be happy there, I promise.

Kal-El sat in the grass and pulled at the springy blades, crushed them in his toes.” Why? Why do I have to live there? I like it here, I don’t want to leave! My garden is here, and you are here, and our house is here.” He pointed at the triangular shield over the archway of the pavilion and said, “Look, my name is on the house. I belong here.”

She shook here head. No one belongs here, my sweet. This is all a dream, a dream you’ll wake up from very soon.

He started to cry, “Why are you teasing me?” He threw himself on her lap again. “Why are you being so mean?”

She stroked his curls and teased his chin up with gentle tugs, gazing into his eyes, the color of alien seas. Look around sweetling, look around.

And the sky was dark, clouds raced towards them and slowly thinned and the pavilion shuddered, dark walls rose on every side of them, lights like stars but not blinked on and off and under him, the grass was hard and slick—he looked down and his feet touched a black couch, straps crossed over them. Wires ran over and under them, he was lying on his back and awfully close overhead, the same black walls winked and glittered at him. He drew in a deep breath and smelled oil and dust and metal and a salty tang at the back of his throat.

He was back with Lara and shocked into stillness.

This is the dream. In a few tren, all this will change, you’ll be standing on your real home and I’ll have to leave you, but never here. She pointed at the center of his chest. I’ll always be here, I promise you. I’ll look over you. You may not see me but you’ll always feel me.

She kissed him, hugged him and held him. The pavilion tilted, the sky tilted and slid away, and the gentle sound of waters and the rustle of the grass gave way to an eerie howling. Kal-el cried and held onto Lara tight as he could, desperately trying to hold on even as the world roared away, and the black walls around him shook and screamed. No matter how ferociously he held on, he felt her thinning away into mist and he was left holding air and screaming out, “Momma, come back, momma, please come back!”

All around him, under him and in him was black, for a long time. Kal-El felt the black like a living thing; crouching, waiting for the moment he opened his eyes to devour him. He kept his eyes squeezed shut, and his hands pressed over his mouth, afraid to breathe, afraid to move in case the monster grabbed him. If he lay here long enough and stayed still enough maybe Lara would come back.

A screeching roar tore his eyes open and light blinded him. He screamed and leaped up over the edge of the cracked shell. He ran, ran under the acid lash of the awful glaring sun, trying to escape the horrible scrape of wind over his skin. The air hurt and it was too wet and too bright, the grass was sharp and too tall, and he dropped in a little heap and cried and cried, until he was too tired to cry anymore.

Thirst pulled him to his feet again, slowly tickling his throat and parched mouth. He had to look for water; Lara said that water was on the ground on this awfully green world. He blinked and blinked against the yellow sun. He would look for water.

Lex waited not at all patiently for his father to come back to the car. His friend, who Lex thought was ugly and cheap looking and smelled like discount store perfume, made a show of taking notes as his father and some men looked out over the town in the distance. It was some business thing, and he hated being here. He wanted to be back in Metropolis with his mother.

He worried. What if she got sick again while he was gone? Who would make sure she got her tea just the way she wanted it, with two spoons of honey and the spoon to the left of the cup on her tray? He sighed, slid across the seat until he was sitting with his feet hanging from the open doorway, kicked them back and forth idly. The leather of the seat was getting warmer and warmer; the breeze that floated in through the doorway just stirred hot air inside the limo.

He watched the progress of an ant across the dust-smeared doorframe, thought briefly about smashing it, but let it go. His mother would let the ant go. She liked ants; she liked their busy, productive nature. ‘A man must always find what work makes him happy and then do it to the best of his ability’. ‘A man makes the world better for having been in it, Alexander.’ Mother was full of stories, fables. Lessons on what made a man a man. She was very intelligent, as well as beautiful and kind. He missed her.

He wished his bodyguard was with them on this trip, but Dad decided his one bodyguard would be enough. He missed Robin too. He was so nice; he acted like his job wasn’t just a job. He acted like he really liked him just for him. And Robin was really strong, and handsome, with his chocolate skin and brown eyes that could see right inside a person and know what they were really like in their hearts—and so smart. He knew all kinds of things, and didn’t think it was babyish to still like being read to. He read to him lots of times, about Hannibal and Alexander and Arthur and Chevalier St-George…. He was so warm to lean on, and he didn’t mind at all. His mom liked him too, and whenever she was strong enough, they’d play cards together. If she didn’t feel up to it, he’d read to her too, different books. Lex made a face. Boring books about romance and letters from long lost lovers and other dumb stuff. Robin always smiled at him when he read that stuff—guys had to make sacrifices sometimes for the ones they cared about. He nodded. That’s what men did.

He stood up. In fact, men didn’t wait for things to happen, they made things happen. He was about to make his own adventure now.

He jumped off the seat, ran from the car and tried to get into the tall stands of corn flanking the roadside before his dad could see him—but he wasn’t quick enough to escape the eyes of Dad’s bodyguard. He was a big guy, heavy—Lex thought he could outrun him.

He dashed into the cornstalks hearing his name being shouted behind him, he ran and ran, ripping off his stupid tie as he did so. He flung it gleefully over his shoulder, laughing at the heady feel of freedom. Oh, he’d pay for it, no doubt, but right at the moment, running through the green stalks that smelled crisp and bright, being dazzled by sunlight turning filmy and green in the thick of the field was just so exciting--an absolute adventure.

His silly patent leather shoes quickly filmed over with dust, turned to mud when he hit puddles that hadn’t dried yet. His nimble mind supplied a reason for their existence—irrigation, this summer had been especially dry and the odd puddle left here and there was a bonus in his flight to freedom. He laughed—Freedom--it almost had capital letters in his mind.

Starved for adventure, starved for company, starved for air at times, the life of a ‘delicate’ child was lonely and stifling.

Lex was bordered on one side by his father’s off hand indifference; on the other, by his mother’s over protective, puritan love, her fear for him fueled by the asthma that kept a leash on his life.

Robin provided some balance, and his nanny had given him balance also…until she’d been retired. He laughed again—if she saw him now, dirty, coatless, (he flung that behind him too), red hair flopping about wildly in the breeze that had strengthened since he’d run from the car—dust blew around him, and the sky was darker and suddenly he was aware that he had no idea how far or in what direction he’d fled. Wind kicked up again and dust swirled into his lungs and he coughed. The sun seemed to disappear and he was not interested now in running away, it wasn’t fun anymore. He stopped and yelled as loud as he could, “Dad! Dad!” He doubled over coughing and felt the tightness in his chest that signaled an attack. Fear instantly chilled him—Dad! He opened his moth to scream louder and a howl from the sky drowned him out, the earth leapt and shook and threw him to his face. Dirt slapped at him, painfully covering him and then explosions burst around him. Fear gripped him, he felt tears come and struggled against them, he struggled to be brave like the heroes Robin read to him about but it was hard, too hard. “Robin,” he called out. “Robin…help me…”

The earth shook and shook and pain raced through him—he gasped, he was on fire.

Thankfully, blackness rushed up to claim him, and he fell into it gratefully.

Kal-El wandered through the tall grass, he felt fear, hunger, loneliness. Tears ran down his face, dropping to wash little trails down his dirty chest. That made him unhappy too, the dirt itched and clung--he’d never been dirty before. He’d never wanted to eat and not have food before. He trudged on, not knowing what else to do, when he heard a moan, a sound—it might be one of the heroes Lara told him about! He ran towards the sound, hoping that rescue would finally be at hand.

He burst through the tall, tall grass and found himself in a clearing. He looked around for the Hero, but all he saw was flattened grass and dirt, he felt a sharp stab of despair and then, heard it again--a weak mewl of pain. He was nearly standing on a hand. A little hand, not as big as Lara’s but a little bigger than his--he dropped to his knees and threw dirt and the big grass wildly until he uncovered a person, a small person, in need of help.

He pushed the mat of brilliant red hair away from the fine features. The hair was so red and soft it took his breath away-- he cried aloud in horror when it came loose in his hand. He shook with sorrow as all the beautiful red hair he touched dropped to the ground, some strands wrapped around his fingers and some strands floated away on the wind…the still figure moved and opened its eyes and Kal-El felt an immediate and wonderful shock race through him. The eyes held him, and he hardly knew that his little hands were on the smooth pale cheeks; he was so excited, he began to babble, “Who are you? Are you a Hero? Do you live here?”—he was interrupted by a groan and a small dry voice saying…something. Words certainly, but nothing he could understand. The person lifted his head and Clark saw blood under his nose and on his chin—he leaped up. Help—he had to find help.

He was clutching a handful of red hair unnoticed as he ran through the grass again, this time with purpose. He ran back precisely the way he came. He didn’t need to think about it, he just knew where he was. He listened for some sound that might lead him to help and he heard a noise similar to that of the shell that dropped him on Fairytale World.

He put on a burst of speed and the grass dropped away and he was on a black path, it was warm under his feet, and he felt waves of a strange, bad feeling that came and went as he moved. He ran blindly down the path, yelling for help, and in an instant was struck by something hot and hard as stone. It flung him back, almost to the grasses and he was dizzy and his stomach tried to flatten itself. He tried to sit up, but it hurt. Pain stabbed him, poked sharp claws into him over and over—he began to cry in misery and frustration.

He heard screaming and the thing that hit him stopped and growled angrily at him and amazingly, vomited out more persons.

There was a big person with short hair and a gruff voice, and…and a beautiful lady, beautiful as Lara, with the bright red hair of the little Hero in the grass. When he saw her, he ran straight to her, calling out, “Hurry, hurry, he needs help!”

She ran towards him, grabbing him up and searching him all over while making weird noises that rose and fell in such an odd way.

“Stop,” he cried, “he needs help!” He wiggled and wiggled until she set him down, tears running from her eyes too. He showed her the hair and said carefully, slowly, so maybe she could understand him, “Come now, please. My hero needs help.”

He looked at the other, a man, he could see now. “Are you a knight? Help me please—“ he showed them the hair and ran towards the grass again. He waved the bright red strands and the persons began to speak rapidly, excitedly to each other. He smiled and turned to run--they understood.

Martha watched the little naked boy smile and then run into the corn. “You’re right, Jonathan, he wants us to follow him; the hair has to be from someone who needs help!”.

They hurried after him and the boy sprinted in a straight line through the corn, knocking stalks out of the way. Jonathan winced at the deliberate damage, a farmer down to his soles.

They caught up with the little boy in a circle of flattened corn and he gave a cry of anguish that made her heart break. Whoever it was the boy brought them back to help was obviously gone. He turned to them and held out his arms, babbled something and his sorrow was clear. She was heartbroken for the boy, he must be so frightened, a stranger, in a strange land, crying out in a language she couldn’t understand—one that she’d never heard before. She picked him up and made Jonathan give her his shirt. She managed to get his little arms through the enormous sleeves, and rolled them up a hundred times before his hands poked out the ends, one hand still clutching a few strands of red hair, hair from someone he’d lost here.

“Wait right here, I’m going to look around the field, maybe this person managed to walk off a bit. Might be his mother,” Jonathan said, watching the little boy run his free hand through Martha’s hair with such a look of worshipful awe that he was deeply moved, as much as he’d been the first time he’d seen Martha cry out of sadness.

He walked out from the spot they stood in a circular movement, wider and wider and still no sight of a redheaded anyone. He was beginning to feel fried in the hot sun and decided Martha had waited long enough when he saw something glint through a gap in the cornstalks. He pushed his way through, and where dirt didn’t cover it, sunlight reflected from the mirrored edge of a spaceship. He stared at it and his overwhelming emotion was an oddly…calm…sort of interest.

Spaceship. It was the only term he could dredge out of his brain to describe the open shell laying half buried in the dirt. It was the size of a…a cradle, it even looked weirdly like a bassinet. Closed, it still would have been a snug fit, he thought, and realized he’d already accepted that the strange little boy had come out of this thing.

He froze, blood rushing to his feet and he swayed…he’d left his wife with an alien thing—it looked like an adorable toddler but whatever the hell it was, it wasn’t from Earth.

He dashed back, fear closing his throat but lending him a superhuman burst of speed. He ran headlong back to the clearing, heart slamming against his ribs and panting aloud as he slid to a stop in the chewed up dirt.

Martha sat in the dirt, with the little boy on her lap. He had his head against her chest and was ‘talking’ quietly, making sounds, his hand closed tight around the lock of red and the other hand wrapped in the tails of the shirt and pressing it against his face like a kid with a blanket. Tears ran steadily from both the boy, and Martha. The tone of the little boy’s voice was questioning, but not very hopeful. When he saw Jonathan, he raised his arms and called out to him.

This was no alien creature, no monster. This was a lost little boy; by the looks of it he’d lost everything, parents, language…his home. He reached down and picked up the boy, helped Martha to her feet.

“His…um…spaceship. Is out there. I’ll come back late tonight and get it.”

Martha gasped, looked from the boy to the skies and back at Jonathan. “His spaceship? He’s….” She stared down at the little boy in her lap, dawning fear almost instantly giving way to a soft look, one he’d never seen on her face before. It suited her.

He nodded and tried to smile at her. “We’ll need to hide it. Come up with some story why we suddenly have…” his voice wound down and she smiled at him and wrapped her arms tighter around the boy.

“A baby.” she finished.

“Lara,” the little boy said clearly. “Kal-El.” He pointed at himself. “Kal-El.”

Several miles farther down the road, a black limo flew towards Smallville. Against the advice of his bodyguard, who sported a swollen lip for his trouble, Lionel Luthor rushed his son back to a private hospital, well known not only for its excellent staff, but also its discretion. His son was— disfigured.

Pale, clammy--his skin had undergone some sort of change that rendered it horribly waxy and smooth to the touch, lifeless as a manikin’s. It frightened him, that and Lex’s total hair loss. He wouldn’t or couldn’t open his eyes; they were sunken and lash-less beneath his bruised brow--no hair there, no hair, no eyebrows… his head lolled loosely over the man’s arm.

Lionel sat wedged against the limo door, chewing on his fingers. Thinking.

The very sight of him was repulsive…and fascinating. He couldn’t take his eyes off him. He’d never get the image out of his head ever--Lex lying on the ground, his man sweeping him up out of the dirt and Lex covered with dirt and blood and no hair at all, none. Lionel combed his fingers through his short shorn salt and pepper hair and shivered. The boy looked like some unearthly creature.

The limo sped farther and faster away towards Metropolis and he worried the edge of his thumb. He’d have to deal with Lillian; maybe the shock would kill her. He hoped not.

Blowing up the tenement that once upon a time, he’d had to call home, had changed his life dramatically. While not all of the changes were good, on the whole, not counting the money, Lillian had been one of the better changes. Once.

First and foremost had been the money, which gave rise to more money, more money than his alcoholic bum of a father could ever have dreamed of, and that brought access to whomever he wanted; including women so beautiful that other men wanted to slit their own throats out of envy. He’d married one…he looked at the long legged bottle blonde at his side, her dime store makeup applied thickly to smooth out a sallow complexion; her bright red lipstick that only made her teeth look stained. She was trashy and tried for flashy and failed miserably and she’d let him fuck her anywhere, anyway he wanted and he liked that. He liked humiliating her. She was a cheap no excuses for it whore. Not quite in the same league as dear old Mom, but a few more years and a few more bottles would guarantee she’d catch up.

She sighed with boredom and her eyes slid off Lex in total disinterest, the slight fascination his radical hair loss held for her used up by a brain not quite able to handle all the information required for daily living. Lionel smiled at her. worthless tramp

His man kept his eyes on him relentlessly. His swollen lip twisted in anger from time to time. How was it that that weak little twig of the Luthor tree inspired such loyalty in these men?

He leaned back and watched Lex’s head bob and roll with the movement of the car. Perhaps he’d better pay a bit more attention to young Lex.

 

Chapter Two

My little dog--a heartbeat at my feet.
--Edith Wharton.

Chickens ran across the yard and Kal ran after them, waving his arms. They were so funny, fat and feathery and they made the most amusing noise when they ran. He copied it as best he could, and giggled, the sound made his mouth buzz. “Cuck-cuck-cuck! Orelrin, cuck-cuck!” He laughed—they weren’t really very much like orelrin, but they did have feathers, and they did sort of fly…he laughed harder and crowed and ran the birds intro a frenzied circle.

Martha dashed out onto the porch.

“No, no! Cal, stop this instant.” She ran down the porch step, and grabbed Kal by the hand. “Don’t frighten the chickens, honey, it’s not good for them.” She was truly frightened that he’d run them to death; he’d done just that before. This time, she smacked his hand, and said, “That’s bad, that’s the wrong thing to do, Cal!”

His eyes opened impossibly wider, and flooded with tears as he stared at his hand in shock. “ Ooow,” his voice trembled and Martha steeled her heart.

“Go to your room this instant, Cal.” She pointed towards the porch, and the boy stuck his lip out. “No. Kal no.” He shook his head hard and fat black curls flew. Martha looked down at him, his cheeks were red, his eyes swam with tears and as he cradled his hand to his chest, his little lip shook—oh no, she thought to herself, we’re not falling for that lip this time. She narrowed her eyes. “What did I say?”

Kal looked at up at her, and saw she was not to be moved. All the tears in the world weren’t going to melt her heart. He looked at the chickens sorrowfully. He’d really liked that game, and now he couldn’t play it anymore. He’d really enjoyed being the boss and now it appeared that that game was over too. Lara was Lara, no matter what she looked like---she was the one who gave the rules.

He burst into loud wet tears and trudged slowly into the house, howling all the way and not looking back. There was no point. He’d lost. He mounted the stairs and before going in the house said,” Love Kal?”

“Yes---now go to your room.”

He nodded--he hadn’t really expected to soften her heart-- and went inside.

Martha watched him and felt absolutely horrible, like the very worst mother in the world. It was plain that her little boy was just devastated at having disobeyed. Maybe she should tell him it was all right, assure him that he really was a good boy…she straightened. No. Now was the time to be firm. He needed to learn what he could and couldn’t do. And absolutely, killing the chickens was not one of his approved activities. She squared her shoulders and walked into the house.

When Jonathan came in that afternoon, Kal was sitting quietly at the table, concentration creasing his forehead as he helped Martha peel apples, handing her un-peeled ones and putting the peeled ones in a bowl.

“Hey, everybody.” He waved and hung his cap on one of the hooks inside the door, and walked over to the sink. While he filled a tall glass with water, he asked, “How was your afternoon--” and stopped. It was pretty plain to see it had been a much less pleasant afternoon than the homey little domestic scene would indicate. Martha was red-eyed, the tip of her nose was pink and Jonathan took a long swallow of cold water and waited.

“Progress,” she smiled and patted Cal. Jonathan grinned. Cal was a handful, that was for sure. If she said she was making progress, than some miracle had occurred. His son was a joy, but he was one hardheaded kid.

“Go give your daddy a hug, sweetie.”

Kal flew off the chair and hit Jonathan with a full body hug, nearly knocking him down.

“Daddy!” he yelled in delight, and Jonathan and Martha both gasped.

“Oh my gosh—did you hear that? He called me daddy!”

Martha was astonished. They’d tried to get him to say mommy and daddy since he’d come into their lives. He obviously had language, he understood them, but he didn’t try to use English words. Instead, he spoke constantly in his own language, as if in his mind he’d reasoned that if he spoke it enough, they’d understand--but they couldn’t make sense of what he said. Lara was mother…maybe. It could be hair. It could be the sky or the sun; he frequently said it as he pointed upwards. The only thing that they were certain of was his name, Calel. He always pointed at himself when he said that.

Martha sighed. Or, it could mean boy. She smiled faintly to herself. Life had become so much more interesting than she’d ever imagined.

Jonathan beamed at her, Cal grinned from his dad’s hip. She felt a bubble of warmth expand in her chest, just grow until it filled all of her. Her family. So perfect, so right. Her entire life had been lived just to reach this moment. She was happy.

Cal reached out to her with one chubby hand, fingers wiggling. He wanted her near, and she stood. He grinned from ear to ear. “Mommy!”

They laughed aloud. “Wow, this must be his day to talk!” Jonathan grinned. “Daddy and Mommy.” He threw Cal into the air. “Hey sport, let’s celebrate! How about ice cream?”

His eyes got round and wide and he crowed, “Yuuuum!”

They walked together down the sidewalk to Smallville’s most popular ice cream shop. That it was the only one made no difference. It was the best ice cream parlor ever. People just knew it to be true.

Cal silently watched the traffic go by. He was always quiet around strangers—anyone who wasn’t mommy and daddy. Martha rubbed his head briefly and he smiled up at her.

People who knew them called out in greeting, and made sure to include Cal, who responded with a grave little smile. Martha knew some of them thought that Cal couldn’t speak at all, that there was something a little off about him. It didn’t bother her; it just meant that they didn’t have to share him.

When they’d first arrived in town with Cal, folks had naturally been curious. They’d explained his sudden appearance as a kindness to a Metropolitan cousin of Martha’s, an unmarried one that had fallen on hard times and had a baby she couldn’t care for—that was instantly accepted, after all, it happened in Metropolis. The rumor mill ground on…goodness, all kinds of things happen in that city that people just take for granted, unmarried mothers, you know, on every corner and lord knows that drugs were almost certainly involved, he’s a pretty baby but he can’t speak, you know that crack cocaine will do that, saw that on the news, they’re good to take the boy in, aren’t they? Well Jonathan did come of good parents….

It only took a few carefully chosen words and a sad but brave smile or two, and the rest of the story filled in and took wing nearly on its own, powered by the ever-active imagination typical of a small town.

Martha hummed and swung Cal’s hand much to his delight—she enjoyed any outing into town. She knew Jonathan worried constantly that she was bored, or compared his little town unfavorably to the life she’d led in Metropolis. There was no way she could explain to him that though this life was so different, that even though, yes, at times she felt like an outsider, she was happier than she’d ever been before. This was all she’d ever wanted--to love and be loved in return. This life—it didn’t matter that sometimes she wasn’t sure of what she was doing, that sometimes she made mistakes. This life was so free. All she was concerned about was her husband and her son and that made life wonderful.

She stared at the menu, her eyes automatically seeking the cheapest item. She smiled wryly to herself. Okay, not all of it was easy and carefree. In fact, a lot of it could be harsh. But—it was her choice, her decision. She lowered her menu and looked at Cal, at Jonathan joking with the waitress. Best decision she’d ever made.

Sundaes arrived, single scoop, sauce, a swirl of cream and a single cherry on top, but it was as if Cal had been presented the most amazing gift ever. He looked at her with wide worshipful eyes, as if asking permission to eat. “Go ahead, honey, dig in.”

He sighed happily and grabbed his spoon and proceeded to create a masterpiece of a mess. Ice cream and sauce were everywhere in seconds, and he kept up a constant delighted hum throughout. Heads turned and people laughed. No one could ignore a happy Cal. His delighted “mmm” filled the ice cream parlor and Martha could only laugh herself and try to contain the growing mess.

Half an hour later, daubed with sauce and ice cream, they were on their way home. Cal sat in his car seat and hummed. After a while he was quiet and had been for some time. Martha turned to check on him, but he was wide awake, his brow slightly furrowed. He said when he caught her looking, “Mommy.”

She nodded.

“Daddy.”

She nodded again as he pointed at Jonathan. In rapid succession, he said, “Ice cream. Truck. Cow. Chicken. House. Cookie. Apple.” They stared at each other in astonishment.

“Sleepy,” he yawned and stretched, closed his eyes. “Goo’ night.”

Jonathan looked at his sleeping son in the mirror. “What the hell was that?”

Martha automatically tapped his arm. “Language. Oh…language. I guess…today was his day for language?” She laughed, a little high-pitched and Jonathan looked at her in concern.

“Sorry. It just really struck me how different our lives are going to be than other parents.”

“Oh, not so much, honey. He’s pretty much like other kids his age. I don’t think it’s going to be all that different.”

 

“Cal!! Put that truck down now!” Jonathan came running up the driveway to the garage. “Put it down, Cal!”

Cal looked at him, surprised that this was a bad thing. “Ball,” he explained patiently, and under the shadow of the truck, Jonathan could see his red and blue ball.

“Okay, but next time, ask Daddy to get it. You mustn’t lift the truck.”

Cal looked sad and Jonathan sighed. He knew the poor kid heard “you mustn’t do this or that” a hundred times a day but…what else could they do?

Teaching him not to exert his full strength had been pretty much a nightmare for all of them. How many things had Cal crushed when suddenly a...a sort of growth spurt had come on him. One night he’d gone to bed, maybe just a little stronger than other children his age and the next morning holy hell had broken loose. Dishes, chairs, lamps, silverware, all had fallen victim to Cal’s super strength. Doorknobs had flown out of splintered doors, squeezed to misshapen lumps in his chubby little hands…Jonathan didn’t even want to think of the barn kittens…poor, poor Cal. Poor Martha. No one should have to live with what those two lived through. A wave of guilt and love for his wife swept him. She was so brave. She’d had to adjust to so much, so quickly. He knew she must miss all the small luxuries that were taken for granted in her world. She never said, but sometimes she had to want it back. Especially at times like this, when bills came hot and heavy and the money came slower by far, when she had to deal with a million crises a day almost on her own. Poor Cal, trying so damn hard to do what they wanted that it almost broke his heart to watch him…. was it selfish of him to still want it all and not want to change a bit? To be so damn happy he had Martha and Cal? Maybe he should be generous and explain to her that anytime it became too much she was free to go. But he couldn’t bring himself to tell her that. Too selfish

He came back to himself when he felt a tug on his pants leg. “Daddy mad at Cal?”

He looked down into the earnest little face and smiled. “Heck no. You just forgot this time.” He picked him up. “Come on, we’ll ride on the tractor, okay? That’ll be fun right?”

Cal yelled out “Yay,” in excitement and threw his arms around Jonathan’s neck. Jonathan forced himself not to react, and he could feel how carefully, how tenderly Cal embraced him. He looked at his face and his brow was furrowed in concentration. Cal was trying to judge how hard was too hard. He kissed his son on the lines that creased his forehead, willing them away. He thanked God that he was a resilient little boy with a huge happy heart—grown men would have broken under a tenth of the strain that Cal went through every day of his life.

He walked with the boy in his arms up to the farmhouse. He wanted to let Martha know to relax for a while, that he was taking Cal. He hoped she wouldn’t comment on his red eyes.

The sun was high in the sky by the time the two of them stopped for water. Jonathan wiped his arm across his brow, and followed that up with swipes from the bandana hanging out of his pocket. He folded the ball cap he wore against the sun in two and shoved it in his back pocket. “Wanna get down for a bit, sport?” Cal nodded and hopped down from the tractor Jonathan masked a wince—he always expected to hear a howl when Cal did that, it was a long way for a kid his age to drop. He dropped down next to him and walked the kinks out of his back.

Birds called to each other in the distance and the low drone of an airplane wafted towards them. The sun blazed, almost a weight on him, but Cal just—glowed. His skin looked gold, his eyes bight as emeralds. Jonathan smiled; enjoying how much Cal enjoyed the sun. They passed a bottle of water back and forth, and Jonathan pulled a bag of grapes out of the little cooler strapped under the seat.

“Ooo,” Cal grinned. “Grapes.” He checked carefully to see that they were all of one color; he wouldn’t eat different colored grapes together and all the coaxing in the world wouldn’t get him to eat them. Satisfied that they were all green, he happily nibbled away at his treat.

Jonathan looked back the way they came. It was probably time to check the fences—it’d been awhile. And he was going to have to have the vet come out and check the young cows that they’d recently purchased. That was going to cost. He looked back down at Cal happily squirming his butt on the fresh turned soil. And Cal was about due for new clothes and shoes…he thought guiltily of doctor’s appointments that other young families would be going to. He and Martha prayed constantly that Cal remained as healthy a baby as he was now. What in the hell they’d tell a doctor he had no idea. In the meantime, all his ‘appointments’ took place in Metropolis if anyone got nosy enough to ask.

“Daddy, all done!” Cal held his hands up in the air palms up, so that Jonathan could easily see that he was indeed all done. He carefully handed his dad the empty plastic bag—Cal knew better than to throw garbage on the ground. He held his hands out and made a face. Jonathon grinned. He knew what that meant. He pulled out the pack of wet wipes Martha had packed, wet wipes they didn’t dare leave the house without. Cal hated terribly for his hands to be dirty or sticky. He could be coated all over the rest of him with a thick layer of grime but his hands—had to be clean. It was frustrating at times, irritating but also cute and sometimes made them laugh—when they were alone and Cal was safely asleep.

He wiped Cal’s hands vigorously and lifted him up. “Ready to ride?” Call nodded and stood, took a step, and suddenly stumbled. He cried out in shock and puzzlement and Jonathan realized—pain.

Something was making his baby hurt—somehow. Cal fell to the ground and his mouth opened wide on a soundless scream, and Jonathan saw with horror that his skin had a greenish cast. Cal swept his hand in the dirt and thin black lines bloomed on his skin, raced up his arm, and he was still screaming silently, nothing coming out of him, not even breath. Jonathan snatched him up into the air and Cal finally let loose with a howl of agony and betrayal, he screamed louder than Jonathan had ever heard from him before. Tears flowed so rapidly it was if someone had dashed water into his face and he waved his arms frantically. Jonathan ran big hands all over his little body, trying to feel for glass, metal, something had to be stabbing him, something...He looked down into the dirt and he saw a faintly glowing green stone, a pebble really. He knelt still holding Cal and Cal’s screams increased in volume—and the pebble glowed brighter.

Jonathan leapt up so quickly he staggered back against the tractor; with distance, Cal’s cries lowered somewhat. Jonathan put him in the cab and he quickly stopped screaming, whimpered and sobbed quietly instead.

Jonathan kicked the stone farther away from the cab and heard Cal sigh with relief, still sobbing…

Jonathan examined the pebble, rubbing his fingers over its cracked and pocked surface. It was a meteorite, a piece of whatever had landed with Cal. Somehow it caused Cal pain…he swallowed hard, and a lump rose in his throat. He felt ice run down his spine and curl in his gut. Steeled himself for something he had to do. Had to do it. Now. He grabbed the pebble into his fist and walked back to the tractor, the closer he came to Cal, the louder his sobs got until he was howling again, black lines crawling over his golden skin.

Okay. Okay. Jonathan turned and sprinted from the tractor, and threw the pebble as hard as he could. Tears flooded his eyes and he ran back fast as possible. He was sobbing too by the time he got Cal up on his lap and was hugging him.

“Daddy, tummy ache,” he cried. “Bad bad tummy ache.” The only pain Cal could identify, an overly full stomach. Up until this day, that had been the only discomfort he knew. Jonathan struggled hard not to cry with him. He needed to comfort, not be comforted.

“It’s all right son; you’re better now, right?" Daddy didn’t mean to make you hurt, he really didn’t. He rocked Cal and thought about how he’d explain to Martha that he’d found something that could hurt their little boy, maybe hurt him really bad…that their life had taken yet another turn into uncharted territory.

 

Chapter Three

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
-Mark Twain

 

One year later….

Lex lay on his bed and struggled not to cry. Big boys didn’t cry. And certainly Luthors didn’t cry. Dad had an unpleasant way of sensing whenever he got overly emotional. He rolled his face into the pillow and bit it hard, grinding his teeth as he did so. It didn’t help that he still felt too hot and his stomach still rolled. He let a long shaky sigh out into the pillow, and rolled to his side.

Today had been a bad day. He could usually ignore the taunts of the other students, ignore the accidental little shoves and elbows in the ribs and being splashed with any number of fluids but today—today had been exceptionally bad, yes. His back was sore, his legs sore and his shoulders hurt, the skin burned. He’d been held down and beaten, spanked with some sort of paddle, he guessed, maybe a ping-pong paddle…his skin ached from being scraped raw. He’d fought hard against the boys—they’d twisted his arms until he’d thought they’d pop out of their sockets and nails left hot red tracks all over his skin. His zipper had scratched his thighs where his bunched underwear hadn’t been able to pad him. He shuddered in humiliation. It was going to be all over the school by next morning and he might as well paint “I’m a giant pussy” all over his face. Worse, there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. Who was he going to tell that he let himself be pantsed and spanked and spit on? The few friends he had were as likely to back him up as they were to fly off the Daily Planet globe.

He groaned quietly to himself and got up from his bed. He walked stiffly into his bathroom and ran warm water into the sink. Taking a washcloth from the hook above the basin, he washed his face, slowly, letting the warmth sink into his cheeks, his lips, soothe his eyes…finally, he couldn’t put it off any longer. He took his shirt off, and shoved it into the hamper in the closet. He was glad his blazer had covered most of the blood. It wasn’t that much anyway. Sometimes his nose bled after being jumped. The Lex in the mirrored wall stared back at him, contempt twisting his lips into a sneer.

He reheated the water, and wiped the soft cloth over his sore scalp. A few scratches, not much. Last year, he mused as he stared in the glass, he would have had an asthma attack the minute the boys grabbed him. He’d be covered with a million little scratches and scrapes. This year, post hair loss, he hadn’t suffered through one attack. There had been a few times his chest had tightened down on him and he had to fight to breathe, he was pretty certain those had been panic attacks …and there was no way he was going to let any of those bastards know he didn’t get asthma attacks anymore. It was probably the only thing keeping him from getting killed… He carefully swiped the cloth over the red abrasions on his chest and down his arms. Neither would he let on to anyone how fast he healed. Not one more person besides his dad was ever going to know.

He wrung out the washcloth and folded it on the edge of the sink basin. He took a deep breath, and lowered his pants and underwear, stepped out of them and rolled off his socks. Socks and underwear went in the laundry hamper; he folded the pants and put them in the dry-cleaning hamper.

He stood with his head down and eyes closed, took a deep breath and then opened them. He looked at thighs, his shins...not too bad. He turned and swallowed and looked at himself in the mirror. At his back.

He hissed. There were purple marks from the small of his back to the back of his knees. Probably his ‘healing factor’ was the only thing that was keeping him off the floor right now. It ached, ached miserably, but he could move and sit and lay down without too much trouble. Now he only had to keep himself covered and he should be fine. If his dad found out that he’d let himself be abused, he’d come up with some way to punish him.

Lex leaned against the sink as he let the water out and ran fresh into the glass basin.

He dipped the cloth back into the water until it was comfortably warm and ran it over his legs, his back, as much as he could reach. He dabbed it over his rear, and he hissed loudly. Here was the pain, concentrated on his buttocks. A tear squeezed out from his tightly shut lids and ran down his cheek.

Bastards. Some day, he’d make them wish they were dead. He’d catch them and play with them the way they played with him, until they begged him to kill them…and he wouldn’t. He stopped; a little startled at the turn his thoughts had taken, laughed a little at himself. He sounded like a nutcase.

He let the water out and swirled the cloth around the sink, wiping it clean of blood. He rinsed the cloth out carefully and hung it back on the hook. He stared at himself for a long moment, seeing his father in his face. No matter how much he wished it wasn’t there, even hairless, he could see the resemblance. He snarled at himself in the mirror. If he was going to make those dicks pay, then the old man should have his ass in line for some payback too. He was definitely on his list. He looked at the faint pale lines that ran along his arms, down his body, his legs--the insides of his elbows and his neck sported silvery little dots that faded more and more until one day they’d be gone. The doctors had done a thorough job—they’d been as thorough as they could be, not knowing what exactly they were looking for. He laughed a little and his hands gripped the edge of the sink so tightly that his knuckles turned white and he thought if he ever became a doctor, he’d know damn sure what it was he was looking for. He turned from the sink and swallowed. He remembered once when he thought Lionel’s interest in him had to do with love. Stupid. So stupid. People who love you didn’t treat you like a lab rat, or…or…a toy.

The dining room was bright even though the morning was gray; drizzle glittered on the tall glass panes at the end of the room and the sound of wind driven rain hitting the glass could be heard over the soft music playing, endlessly playing in the background.

Lex’s house shoes scuffed against the gray carpet, the thick nap masking the sound. He quietly slid into one of the gray upholstered chairs at the breakfast table. Lionel glanced his way. “Lex.”

“Good morning, Dad,” he replied, lifted the dove gray napkin from his place setting and unfolded it across his lap. He waited patiently as the housekeeper brought eggs and a croissant and filled the china cup with coffee, sweet and extra light. She smiled briefly at him and went back to the kitchen.

Lionel leaned from behind the newspaper, said, “Ray will pick you up from school and Robin will accompany you to Dr. Keller’s office.”

The mouthful of eggs he’d popped in his mouth turned to sand. Needles, blood work again. He’d forgotten that he had an appointment at the institute today. He hoped fervently that he’d be able to convince Dr. K not to tell his dad about the bruises. A bit of egg fell off his raised fork into his lap and Lionel raised an eyebrow at him. “Careful, son. There’s no reason to become so emotional. He’s only drawing a little blood, after all.” His eyes traveled over him, and did that reptilian blink and stare that he hated so much, studying him like he was an especially interesting specimen of…something.

He forced a casual smile. “I’m not worried.” He bit at one horn of the croissant and chewed carefully.

Lionel lost interest, the paper rattled as he folded it to a new section. “Don’t forget to say good morning to your mother,” he murmured.

“Has she eaten already?” he asked. “I could bring her something.”

“Uhm, hum,” Lionel replied distractedly. “Ask the housekeeper to make a pot of tea…”

Lex slid off the chair, grateful to be dismissed.

In the kitchen, he was handed a tray. On the tray was a pot of tea, a porcelain cup and saucer and a vase with a single white tulip in it.

“Oh, how pretty! That’s nice, she’ll like that,” he said, and the housekeeper and he smiled at each other. The door at the other end of the kitchen opened and Robin walked in, snagged a cup of coffee and took a quick gulp or two before he spoke.

“For your mom?” He nodded when Lex said yes. “Okay. I’ll walk you up to her room. Your dad tell you what you’re doing this afternoon?” He held open the door so Lex could walk through with the tray. “How about riding around the park for a bit after? We could get hotdogs.”

“Oh, that’d be great.” He concentrated on not tipping the tray as he carefully negotiated the few steps to his mother’s room. Robin opened the door and peeked inside the dim room. “A…Lex, Mrs. Luthor.”

A soft breathy voice responded “Oh, lovely. Come in, come in.”

Robin stepped back. “Keep it kind of short, okay? She’s been having a hard day, Nurse said.” He steered Lex in the door and shut it.

The halls of J. Parker School For Boys were high-ceilinged; at the end of each hall, tall glass windows with frosted lower panels divided by steel mullions let in as little light as possible The stairwells were alternating pools of gray and black, their odd design holding lots of little hiding spaces. These sometimes worked to one’s advantage and sometimes painfully not. The open treads and risers gave rise to many delightful games of “break an ankle” or “fall headlong down a flight of granite steps and knock a tooth out.” Friends of his had taken the plunge, but Lex listened with his whole body and was agile as a springbok on the stairs.

He was rather less fortunate in the wooden cavern of the gymnasium. The bleachers in the gym shuddered and creaked often under the weight of running feet and while Lex’s agility enabled him to weave and spring and dodge from step to step—there was just no place to go once one had reached the top and the bottom bleachers were lined with one’s tormentors. Lex had yet to gamble on how fast he could recover from a broken bone. Leaping from the top was not an option—so far.

The restrooms were a world unto themselves. They were huge, with the same high ceilings as the rest of the school, having been built in an era that believed children needed vast amounts of light, not unlike flowers, to help them grow. And J. Parker built high, and built wide; oversized windows were everywhere, every classroom, every restroom, in the gymnasium and the offices and the nurse’s office. The cafeteria had so many windows it was nearly a solarium—or would have been, had not the city grown around them. Taller buildings grew to tower over them, progress darkened the air and safety wire and bars grew like metal ivy over the panes, all working hand in hand to render the quality of light to a pearl gray at all times.

J. Parker also had lovely huge fluorescent lights that hung from the tall ceilings in the restrooms and in fact, everywhere. They burned all the time. Icy light reflected off the white tiles that lined the restrooms floor to ceiling, Lex thought it gave the room the air of a 1900’s operating theater. God knew the place had seen almost as much blood. He was willing to bet that most of it was his…He stood on tiptoe and stared in the mirror; wiped at a smear of blood under his nose; with his fingernail scraped at the blood stubbornly clinging to the scar on his lip.

“Hurry up, Lex, before we’re late,” a high-pitched voice behind him squeaked.

“Jacob, there’s no reason for you to wait for me now; you didn’t wait when those guys came after me in the first place.” He turned to pick up his book bag and look at Jacob who was completely unconcerned at Lex’s intimation that he’d been a less than sterling friend. Lex sighed. He couldn’t stand the ass and Jacob definitely couldn’t care less about him, but there was safety in numbers and like the herbivores most of them were, they preferred to travel in packs.

Lex trudged along with Jacob ghosting at his heels and thought about his situation.

He pushed his bag under his chair and ignored his teacher’s glare. Yes, yes, book bags must be stowed in one’s locker but not when said locker was full of water and pudding. He looked down at the soaking edges of his pants. That was going to dry in a disgustingly suggestive way. Pale brown streaked his legs from knee to ankle. He fumbled in his bag for pencil and notebook and thought in an idle way that it was really kind of ingenious the way they’d booby-trapped his locker…

English gave way to math gave way to social studies gave way to music. Lunch was uneventful, history was barely interesting, science almost managed to be entertaining and this day gym was blessedly free of taunting or physical attack. It was, he had to admit, a fairly decent day.

He stood on the wide granite steps just outside of the covered porch of the J. Parker School For Boys, Est. 1926, and waited for salvation in the form of a black limousine to arrive. He had minutes to go. His ‘friends’, his acquaintances really…no, put a proper face on it—his fellow victims--walked past him with barely a nod. They hurried off to various waiting cars; the not so lucky ones sprinted to the subway. With any luck, Lex thought they’d make it home unmolested. A very large part of him cared not at all.

A car horn broke his reverie and there he was. Lex’s heart leaped with the first pure pleasure he’d felt all day. It was always this way.

Robin stood by the open car door, tall and handsome, his dark skin made the white of his shirt so much whiter in contrast. His broad shoulders lifted the edges of his dark jacket as he waved Lex forward. Lex waited a bit. Robin grinned, a flash of white teeth, and waved again, and Lex flew down the stair. He was smiling as he ran and then he remembered, Dr. K. and the smile was a little less—but-oh! Freedom! Friendship!

He skidded to a stop and just managed, as always, not to throw his arms around Robin and hug him. How he wished he could. Every day that he saw him, he wished he could.

“I love days I get to ride home,” he crowed, and flung his bag in the car.

“Hey, watch the upholstery,” Ray called said with a ferocious frown and Lex grinned back.

Reason number two he loved the days he was allowed to ride. Ray, who was absolutely the coolest chauffeur ever. He wasn’t as smooth and polished as Robin, but the aura of barely leashed power he gave off more than made up for that lack—he was an impressive guy. He was quiet, looked stern, in fact, unfriendly, but when it was just Lex and Robin, he was a completely different guy, one who joked and smiled—he had a wonderful smile. He was the kind of guy who’d do anything for his friends.

All too soon he was in front of the Institute and Dr. Keller waited for him.

Robin asked if Lex wanted him to walk up to the office with him and Lex shook his head quickly. He didn’t need to be protected inside the institute. He knew the minute he stepped in the doors, every camera, all their security were aware of the fact. Lex Luthor was valuable to them. Dr. Keller, his colleagues and Dad, they all knew he didn’t get attacks anymore. They’d been in every part of him since that day and there probably wasn’t anything they didn’t know about him and he hated them fairly equally. The ones who didn’t look at him like he was some sort of alien freak looked at him with way too much sympathy. None of them mattered. He held his head up and walked right past them. He was Alexander Joseph Luthor and he didn’t need anyone.

Except Robin. And Ray. And Mother.

Dr. K’s office was cold—it was always cold. Winter, summer, it didn’t matter. The office had its own environment. Hell, maybe it had its own dimension. Lex looked around the sterile area with nothing to relieve its bland whiteness--white tiles, from the floor to the ceiling, white furnishing, white blinds masking the windows… Lex sighed. Why was it that all his nightmare places featured white tile? The white tile in J Parker School For Homicidal Boys restrooms wasn’t quite as cheerfully white, the grout in fact had gone a dingy gray with age and dirt. But Dr. K’s tiles were as white and sparkling, the grout whiter than the white of the tiles, as the very first day he’d stepped into this office. He shivered, and gooseflesh ran up and down his arms and legs and the back of his neck.

He was perched on the edge of the table, his legs dangling in the air. The paper gown scratching his butt and alternately exposing it to the frigid air was getting on his nerves. The sharp smell of alcohol assaulted his nose; disinfectant clung to the back of his throat. He rubbed his cold scalp and growled quietly to himself. This was ridiculous; this waiting for the doctor, like he hadn’t figured out long ago it was part of the process. They filmed him---watched what he did and how he acted. What was the point? All he did was sit on the damn table and swing his legs back and forth and curse under his breath. He looked up to the corner he was pretty sure the camera was in and mouthed “dick.” It wasn’t like the guy could do anything to make it hurt more and he was as afraid of his father as any sane man should be.

Sane. Dr. Keller might not be all that sane. Lex had thought often the man was less than all there. He was a creep. He was…fingery. Too touchy. Granted, his job required him to touch but…still. He got a feeling from him. It was just a feeling but it gave him creeps. Lex hated him completely but the guy seemed not to know it. He acted as if he and Lex were the best of friends—‘buds’. Buddies. Creep. He was just…it was as if he’d developed a personality by watching films of normal humans interacting and he’d taken extensive notes. “Ah. To infer closeness, grasp the shoulder and apply mild pressure. To express humor, wink while doing so. To comfort, pat in varying degrees of strength. Repeat ‘there, there’ as needed.” He hated Dr. Creep.

Who finally entered the room. Lex was certain his lips were blue. “Alexander! What a pleasure!” Lex watched him and thought. ‘Smile one, two, three, apply serious look and fold arms behind back as to appear non-threatening.’ And like clockwork, Dr. Keller did just that.

“Nurse saw your bruises. Is there anything you’d like to tell us? You know you can tell us anything.”

As freaking if, Lex thought. “Nothing’s wrong, sir, I slipped on some steps at school, sir. Granite gets like ice when it’s wet, sir.”

Dr. K frowned. “I see.” He sat at Lex’s knee on a stool that looked strangely like a tractor seat. “Well, today just involves a quick exam and we’ll take a little blood also.” He smiled and Lex was grateful that he didn’t wink. The thought of the wink made him shiver and Dr. Keller petted his leg. “Not much at all, I promise.” His hand lay on his leg like a dead thing and Lex cringed inside. The man’s touch was revolting. He hated the touch of his fingers on his skin—it was like a violation. Dr. Keller moved his hand up to his arm and turned it out so the inside faced him, stroked his fingers over the inside of his elbow. He hummed to himself and murmured, “such good, good veins…” and kept touching his skin in an absentminded way. Lex finally jerked a bit and Dr. K blinked.

“Well, let’s get started, shall we?” Dr. K smiled at him and Lex swallowed.

The nurse took blood, efficiently, impersonally but thankfully with the minimum of pain. He felt a slight pressure and vials of blood were rapidly filled, marked and stowed in a little tray. She pulled off the strip of rubber tubing she’d wrapped around his arm, wiped the puncture mark and left. He watched the purple around the pinprick fade, the swelling disappear, and shuddered. It always made him vaguely ill. The nurse turned right before she walked out the door and the look on her face was flat, repulsed. The corner of her lip turned up when she caught him looking, a bone-deep instinctual response towards something not pack and he felt burning behind his eyes. He dug his nails into his palms. He’d die before he let her see…bitch.

Dr. Keller re-entered the room and asked him to take his gown off. He slid it down into a puddle of paper on his lap and waited. Dr. K lifted his arms, flexed his joints, felt under his arm and along his ribcage, took notes and in general treated him like a lab rat. He looked into his eyes, his ears, his throat. Felt under his chin, along his neck. His fingers slid over his skin, over and over and Lex had to fight not to squirm. Fingers slid everywhere, and when they moved into his groin he asked, “What are you doing?”

Dr. Keller smiled. “It’s part of the exam.”

“Oh.” He sat as patiently as he could, but the fingers were taking too long. Touching too much. “Are you done yet?” He shifted minutely away, and turned his face away from Dr. K. “Is the exam over yet?”

Dr. K nodded and his fingers floated over his arms again. “There’s been no hair growth. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t grow,” he said and looked at Lex as though he were the cause of the lack of hair. Eyelashes, thin sketches of eyebrows, the occasional lone hair sprouting oddly and then falling away, but nothing else. Lex was pathetically grateful of the eyelashes and brows; there had been talk of implants…he shivered again.

Dr. K still traced the muscle in Lex’s arm again and Lex said loudly, clearly, “I want to go.”

He jumped slightly, dropped his hand and swallowed quickly. “Of course, dress, I’ll let Mr. Wald know you’re ready.”

Lex dressed quickly and scrubbed at his arm. Creep. Creep. He wanted to go home now and take a shower.

He did go to the park and had hotdogs and watched kids float boats in the little pond at the center of the park. He walked through the little box maze not too far from the pond and told Robin what he planned to do when he grew up, leaving out the bits in which he killed his former classmates and Dr. Keller. Robin wouldn’t understand. He looked up at the tall man at his side. He was so…solid. He never said anything unless he meant it. He never said anything mean, or anything careless. He loved to tell jokes too—and he was terrible at it. Lex loved that about him and it always made Ray laugh. Whenever he got new pictures of his son, he showed them to Lex. He didn’t even show his mother the pictures. Lex felt it was a gift, something that just he and Robin shared. Robin let him lean on him. Robin listened, and understood when sometimes he didn’t want to see his mother—Robin never called him an evil thankless selfish child…even though Lex knew that it was true.

Robin never rubbed his skin.

They were sitting on a bench and Lex was eating an ice cream cone and thoroughly enjoyed it, loved the creamy smooth feeling on his tongue and the bursts of flavor as he crunched through the bits of chocolate and toffee buried in the vanilla. The fact that he wasn’t allowed ice cream made it an even more special treat. Sweets were non-nutritious and a waste of time for a child, apples and fruit were much better. Occasionally Lionel allowed a sorbet as an extra special treat.

’Treat this, you asshole’, he thought and licked a huge glob of ice cream into his mouth. He took another large gulp and Robin chuckled.

“Take it easy, AJ. If I bring you home with a stomach ache, we’ll all get in trouble.”

Ray came strolling up the walk, his jacket slung over one shoulder, and his tie loosened. His buzz cut head bobbed as he walked, keeping time to some interior music. When he saw the two on the bench, he grinned and stopped in front of Robin. “Hey, where’s mine?”

Robin frowned. “You’re supposed to be with the car; he’ll have a flipping fit if he finds out you aren’t with it.”

“So, who’s going to tell him—you? “ He smiled at Robin, and looked at Lex. “You going to tell him, AJ?”

He reached down and rubbed Lex’s head, because he was allowed to. Lex smacked his hand away and pretended to kick him in the ankles, because he was allowed to. Lex assured Ray he’d never tell, and grinned, just overwhelmed at Ray’s ability to not give a darn about anything, least of all, his father.

“He’s not about to fire me,” Ray laughed and poked Robin’s shoulder. Robin snorted and batted his hand away. Ray laughed again, a clear loud burst of amusement, the kind of laugh that made other people smile.

“Come on, get me a hotdog, kid. I’m hungry.” He grinned down at Lex and Lex blushed.

“Okay, Ray. Can we, Robin? Get him a hotdog, I mean.”

Robin sighed and shook his head. “Come on, you big baby. You too, AJ.”

They laughed and Lex walked between the two of them and he felt like he was about to fly out of his skin. This was perfect; this day had been the best day ever…he wasn’t Alexander, the lab rat, he wasn’t Lex, the mote in his father’s eye and the punching bag of J. Parker School for Blood-sucking Delinquents Est. 1926. He was AJ, who had really cool friends and was a pretty cool guy himself.

 

Chapter Four

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.
-Josh Billings

 

Cal lay upside down on the bed, thumping his feet against the headboard and humming. Bear was under his head. The window was open and a little breeze flipped the ends of the curtain around, the window shade clacked as it hit the frame.

Cal wrinkled his brow and tried to make out the next line of the story he was reading. Daddy read it to him so many times, it was his favorite. He decided that he was going to learn to read. All big boys could read. He was a big boy. He would teach himself to read and surprise Mommy and Daddy. He smiled briefly before turning his attention back to the book.

He knew “Clark” and “cat”, and “sky”. S-K-Y was sky. Cal said the word to himself. “Skkkkiiiiy.” He smiled. He liked words that felt funny in his mouth, like bubble and balloon. He loved to say balloon. He rolled onto his tummy and propped his chin on his hands. He started aloud from the first line. “One day, Bertie the…beeglee…gul…beegul--beagle and Clark the Corgi…”

Cal worked on his words until Mommy called him to lunch and he jumped up. He was so hungry; he hadn’t even realized how hungry he was until she called. He carefully closed the book and laid it on the chair next to his bed. He wanted to be sure Daddy saw it when he came in to read to him at bedtime.

Mommy called again and he called out, “Coming!” He ran down the stairs, careful to slow down to a complete stop at the bottom and not to put his weight on the newel post at the bottom of the stairs—he hadn’t pulled the ball off in a long time. He felt proud of himself—he knew Mommy would be proud when he told her again he didn’t break the post. He skipped towards the kitchen—next birthday, if he kept doing real good, he’d be able to go to the real school. School at home was fun, but he wanted to see other kids too. He saw classrooms on the television, they had chalkboards and teachers and show and tell. He wanted to go to school and show the kids his treasures too.

He slid into his chair at the table and thought about all his treasures. He had a shell he found in the field. A seashell! Daddy said it was just a rock but he was certain it was a shell. He had a glider that Daddy made for him and it flew a long way. He had a bird feather that was blue all over and a diamond. It might look like glass but it was a diamond all right. He was proud of his treasures.

Mommy put his plate on the table and it was peanut butter and jelly with no crusts and cut up in just the right way. “Thank you, Mommy,” he said when she put his cup down next to his plate. His favorite one, too, the one with a bear on it. He gasped, seeing the cup reminded him—he’d left Bear upstairs all alone!

“Mommy, Bear is alone! On my bed—can I get him?”

“Cal, eat your sandwich first, Bear is sound asleep. He won’t wake up until you wake him up.”

He nodded, true. Bear would sleep until he woke him, he always did. Cal enjoyed his sandwich and kept listening for Daddy’s truck. Sure enough, the sound of tires on gravel floated through the open window.

“Daddy,” he said, his eyes sparkling.

“Daddy,” Mommy agreed and set Daddy’s lunch on the table. He had roast and potatoes and a big glass of water with lots of ice in it, Cal made a face at the ice. He didn’t like it. It was squeaky and crunchy at the same time and made his teeth feel bad.

“Who’s eating my lunch?” A voice boomed in the doorway, and Cal could hardly stop himself from squealing. He quickly dipped a finger in the mashed potatoes, bringing up a bare speck on his finger. He made a great show of eating the speck, licking his lips and rubbing his tummy.

Daddy said, “You! You’re eating my lunch!” and swung him off the chair and into the air, Cal shrieked with terrified glee, and Daddy covered his face with kisses. He squeezed him and dropped him back on the chair. He patted Cal on the head and went to the sink. He lathered and washed his hands vigorously and warned Cal, “I’ve got my eye on you…”

Cal giggled and grinned when Daddy kissed Mommy on the nose.

He sighed happily when Daddy sat down and ate his lunch, and Mommy sat at his side and nibbled on her own sandwich. It was good—everyone he loved was right there—except for poor Bear, but he’d make it up to him later. He'd make a good story with Bear as the hero. He could help Clark the Corgi save Bertie Beagle.

Lionel sat at his wife’s bedside and sighed quietly. He stroked her thin, thin hand, so cold and light in his own. She was losing ground every day. She suffered. She wasted away, slowly, terribly slowly. He couldn’t imagine the pain she must feel, how she must long for as quick and easy a death as poor Julian, the son he’d had such hopes for. He sighed again. Well, death came as it willed, destroyed swiftly or ate slowly; bit by terrible bit, with no regard for status, no care for the good one did in life.

Or the evil….

He leaned back and clasped his hands together. It was obvious she didn’t have long. Days maybe. He looked around the room that had been their bedroom. It looked like the hospital room it’d been turned into. Equipment filled the corners, sat around the bed. The silence was broken only by quiet beeps and dings of the various bits of machinery, the gentle wheeze of oxygen being forced into her lungs and tubes everywhere, it seemed. He could hardly see her face. She was barely a wisp under the light blanket.

Her eyes fluttered open and for a moment there was no recognition there, and then her lips moved. A whisper floated up and she closed her eyes again, exhausted by the effort.

The nurse came in, checked on her, mysteriously adjusted whatever needed to be adjusted and disappeared.

A knock at the door let him know it was someone other then medical staff—they never knocked. He rose stiffly and went to the door. It was Lex. He moved aside and Lex and his bodyguard came into the room. Lionel checked his watch. Of course, end of the school day, Robin fetched him home once again, safe and sound. He saw that Lex favored his left side a bit—so, nearly sound. His eyes narrowed as he watched the boy cross the room. When was he going to fight back? When would he develop a spine, damn it? He glanced to the side and caught Robin looking at him in a less than flattering way.

Robin stepped closer and said, “If you like, sir, I can wait here until Lex is through visiting his mother.”

Lex and Robin. They were too attached to each other. The boy’s mother was—had been—very nearly as attached to the man. Too many times he’d overstepped the boundaries of his job. Eventually, he’d have to do something about that. Lex needed to know where the division lay.

Lex leaned carefully against the bed and whispered to his mother and just when Lionel was about to tell him not to waste his time, Lillian lifted her hand and curled it around the boy’s. Lionel nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Wald, I’ll be in my office. Please make sure that Lex gets his dinner.” Supercilious bastard. He left without a backward glance.

Lionel spent the evening going through reports from various business ventures. A businessman had to keep on top of things. Money came—money went, and he had to make sure it went into the right pockets—his.

He smiled. Mob movies might be ridiculous but there was one point they managed to get correct--get the money first. When you get the money, you get power. And then—you get anything you fucking want. You could come out of the worst, deepest shit and enough money allowed you to scrape it off your shoes, allowed you to buy a whole new person to become. He knew about transforming a gutter rat into something polite society approved of. From his box at the opera to his chair on the board of Metropolis University, to his presence behind the men who stood in office—he rose like a phoenix from the ashes, a testament to money…power…respect. Thanks to dear old dad and mom for giving him the drive to succeed, to excel. Without them, he’d still be a low-life smash and grab punk. He gazed around his office. Hell, it was twice the size of the apartment he’d grown up in, had been decorated by a top of the line Italian designer who’d smiled and blown him and smiled some more when the check was half what it was supposed to be.

This, he sighed in satisfaction, was the life he’d been born to have. Hell, he deserved it; he fought hard enough to get it.

He leaned back in his chair and opened an envelope sent from the office at the Carver St. Building—some pictures of the newest fighters he owned.

Money.

Money brought him to have the right wife, the right social position…let him raise a kid without the stink of poverty and failure in his nose. He threw the pictures on his desk, watched them slide across the polished surface and drop to the floor.

What the fuck was he going to do with that boy? How was he going to toughen him up? The way he was now…he’d never be able to hold onto the business. Lionel got up from his desk and walked around it, stood over the pictures on the floor.

The boy was damn unnerving at times…there was something…he was almost beautiful. Unearthly. But he had no balls, no backbone. Lionel grimaced, frowned as he moved the pictures around with his foot. The boy had no idea what it was to want something with all your soul. He picked up a picture of one of his fighters. The man in the picture was bruised, battered, splashed with blood. He sneered into the camera lens. He had a metal cuff on each wrist; one arm was lifted and crossed over his head, displaying a brand burned into his side, two capital Ls crossed like swords. He was nude.

To want something with all your soul…money, power. Freedom. Your life…he let the picture drop to the floor again. Lex needed to learn to want.

He sat again, settled back in his chair, slipped back into ‘respectable businessman’ and continued to work. There was a notation about the fertilizer plant in Smallville, one of several plants he had in this area of the state. His partner in the trucking business thought the area might be a good place to build storage and maintenance for their containers trucks, nice and private. They needed to buy up some of the land near the plant and there was a perfect spot, a farm a few miles from the plant—struggling business, a young couple, one child…it had to be too much for one person to maintain--they’d probably be happy to sell the farm. He’d be doing them a favor. In fact, he’d offer them pretty near what the land was worth.

Smallville. He hadn’t really thought about the place since the time he’d bought the plant, the day of that disastrous business that had so severely altered the boy.

If he believed in such a thing, he’d almost think he’d been cursed by a vengeful deity... a wife who was dying too slowly, a freak son, and one who’d died in his crib….

He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, folded his hands over his chest. On the other hand, he was gifted—rich beyond his dreams, people begging him for favors, for notice. Dying for his attention. Lex and…the rest…were a small price to pay for all that. Besides, he had a growing feeling lately that Lex was…untapped potential. What, how, he wasn’t quite sure but somehow he’d make a difference. Lex was going to enhance Lionel’s life in some way, of that he was certain. He’d make it so.

A few days after his mother’s funeral, Lex took the elevator to the garage and waited until Ray noticed he was standing in the entranceway.

“Hey, AJ,” he called softly. “Come on over here, kid.” Ray curled a hand around his head when he came up and pulled him close for a second.

"Holding up okay?” he asked gently and resumed wiping down the Benz. “Your dad’s taking it out this evening,” he explained. “Wants it to shine,” he said with a faint undercurrent of disgust. Lex nodded. He knew his father.

“Ray…” He hesitated.

Ray stopped and looked at him. “Yeah?”

Lex looked up at him and wanted to say, can you keep me from drowning? Can you protect me now that mom’s gone? Can you get me out of here, let’s you and me and Robin run away… "Can you teach me something to keep me from being swirled every other day? I’m heartily sick of getting my butt kicked like it’s a soccer ball.”

Ray heard most of what Lex said to him. He smiled. “Sure, AJ. I can do that. We’ll get Robin to help.”

Lex knelt out of Ray’s eyesight, picked up a cloth and started polishing the rims on the wheel he was facing. “Thanks.” He didn’t want him to see his eyes water up like a girl’s.

Little more than a week after Lillian’s’ funeral, Lionel decided to visit Smallville. They had a home there that they’d never actually lived in outside of the town. Lionel had bought it years ago, before he’d had business interests in the town, refurbished it with a thought toward moving Lillian there…before she’d gotten so…ill. He liked the idea that the place had belonged to a mobster in the old days—a Kansas City mob boss who, funnily enough, had decided to retire in Kansas, and live the life of lord of the manor. His fellow mobsters had had other ideas and retired him not only from a life of crime, but from life, period.

Lex hated the place. It was too big, too cold and smelled of disuse and neglect. He was outside of the house as much as possible, reading in the garden, hanging around the garage. He spent afternoons working out with Ray, learning basic defense moves. Ray assured Lex he was an excellent student. He was sharp, quick and agile and Lex enjoyed the challenge, enjoyed the attention and praise—he came away from their matches bruised and limping sometimes—but Ray was never mean or cruel to him. Ray liked him. It meant a lot to Lex to be liked, to be noticed. His dad…well, it was probably best his dad didn’t notice him.

He happened to be in the kitchen with the chef, learning how to scramble eggs when Lionel came storming into the room. “Who do you order your produce from?” he demanded of the chef.

“Why…why I usually get it from Kent Farms. They’re a small organic farm--”

“I know who they are—who else orders? How big is their customer base?”

“I’m not sure—I know the restaurant in town and two others the next town over use them, the coffee shop buys pastries from them as do we, the wife has a little side business…”

Lionel stared through the man, “Hmmm…I’ll find out what switch to flip on those two. I need that land…” He came back to himself and suddenly seemed to notice Lex perched on a stool at the kitchen island. “Son,” he sneered. “Cooking? That’s an…interesting pursuit.” He turned on his heel and stalked out of the kitchen, his grizzled mane the last thing Lex saw before the door swung shut. Like an even more disconcerting version of the Cheshire cat, he thought.

The chef shrugged his shoulders. “Your father, he’s an unusual man.”

Lex smiled. “Is that polite for asshole?” He whisked the eggs together until the chef took the bowl.

“Alexander! That’s no way to talk—gives assholes a bad name,” he muttered under his breath.

Lex snorted gently and watched what the man did, but his mind was elsewhere. He wondered what his dad was doing, and why he was interested in some Smallville farmers. He wondered about these Kents. They must be giving his dad a hard time. He liked them already.

One afternoon not long after the kitchen incident, Dad loaded him into the car, along with bodyguards. They skirted the town and headed out to the farmlands, and Lex marveled at the change in landscape. It’d been a long time since he was out of the city. He watched his dad’s face surreptitiously. He saw their similarities—the eyes, the cheeks—he watched how his long hair shifted around his shoulders as his head moved. Dad’s hair. He wondered if he set it on fire, would it burn away like tissue or just eat him right down to the toes? Was hair very flammable? Lionel looked over and met his eyes and they smiled at each other before Lionel’s eyes flattened out with disinterest.

If anyone asked him what his father thought about him—he’d have to say, he didn’t. Disinterest described his relationship with him in a nutshell. Lex looked out the window and stared at the corn whizzing by. If he shifted his focus though, he could see his dad’s reflection in the glass. All that damn hair…he rubbed briefly at his smooth, smooth scalp. He could see that Lionel had caught the motion and he very slowly very casually dropped his hand and made his mouth curve in a smile. Lionel smirked, and seemed to nod slightly. Lex leaned back and closed his eyes, rested his head against the warm back of the leather seat.

A short time later, they were pulling into an unpaved driveway that led to a cheerful yellow farmhouse. Lex looked approvingly at the building. The yellow paint was surprisingly cheerful and not at all as garish as one would think, and the white trim set it off nicely. He slid across the seat and out of the car, took in the flowerpots filled with white and red blooms hanging from the porch roof. The little house said ‘we’re happy here’. It was like something out of the picture books he’d read when he was a little kid—happy little house, happy little family. He sighed. Why did his dad want him out here?

Lionel brought Lex, Ray, his own bodyguard and Robin with him. Lex wondered why Lionel needed all the manpower, they were just farmers here... They marched up to the house, stopping halfway up the drive and a sandy-haired man came out on the porch, wiping his hands on a rag. Lex looked at him with interest.

So…this was a farmer, eh? He was handsome. He had really nice blue eyes. His look was spoiled a little by the glower. This Mr. Kent must know his dad.

“Well, well, Mr. Kent. Have you had sufficient time to examine my offer?” Lionel turned to Lex and smiled. Oh God—a lesson.   His dad wanted him to watch as he screwed this farmer in some way,

“Mr. Luthor, I’ve looked at your offer. For one thing—it’s way too little. For another thing—there’s no way I’d sell my family’s land to you. No way in hell, my apologies to your boy there.” He inclined his head towards Lex and he thought at first, he thinks I have cancer but no—the blue eyes were warm as they landed on him, sympathetic as they cut from his dad back to him. Oh no—Mr. Kent understood very well. oh yeah, he does know my dad.  Lex risked a smile back. Behind him, a little dark-haired boy came out on the porch, and grabbed the man’s pants leg. Lex looked but he couldn’t see the boy’s face, he hid it against his dad’s knee.

“We’ll speak again, and soon.” Lionel inclined his head at the man and whirled on his heel, strode back to the car. He snapped for Lex to follow him and Lex had to run to catch up. He cast a look behind him, saw the man pick up the boy and hold him close. He wondered briefly what that felt like before turning his attention back to Lionel. He grinned inside. Well, that wasn’t quite the lesson he was supposed to get, he was sure. He caught Ray grinning behind his dad’s back. He jerked his head back towards the farmhouse and mouthed, “Balls.” Lex stifled a laugh in his hands. .

It was nearly bedtime, but Robin let Lex sit in his room and watch TV. Robin sat at a writing table against the wall and Lex leaned over the back of the small couch, chin on his crossed arms and studying him. . “Who are you writing to?” he asked, "—if you don’t mind me asking, I’m sorry.”

Robin looked up with a smile and shook his head. “I don’t mind. I’m writing my friend.”

“Oh. Is he a body guard too?”

Robin laughed, “No--she’s a teacher. More of a girlfriend than a friend, I suppose.” He smiled gently at Lex and Lex felt a tiny prick of unhappiness. He forced himself to smile back.

“Oh, that’s nice you have a girlfriend. Does your son know?” It made him sad, this girlfriend and he didn’t know why.

Robin put his pen down and leaned back. He stretched his long legs out past the desk and Lex thought sadly of days when he was small enough to sit on those legs—get bounced up and down and laugh, laugh…”Robby knows. He met her. He likes her.”

Lex was annoyed with himself again for feeling hurt that he’d never been introduced.

“It’s been a long time since his mother and I divorced. Robby was okay with the idea…but you don’t seem to be.”

Lex blushed furiously. “Don’t be silly—I’m glad you have a girlfriend. I’ll bet she’s really nice, too,” he said brightly and Robin seemed to believe it.

“I have a picture…”

Lex jumped off the couch and stood by the desk, Robin took a picture out of his wallet. “That’s her, that’s Tricia.” He smiled. “What do you think?”

Lex chose to believe that Robin honestly wanted his opinion, that it was important, so he took a moment and studied the photo. She was pretty, well dressed, she looked happy. She looked like…she fit Robin. Lex nodded. “She’s very right for you.”

Robin looked surprised, like he hadn’t expected a response like that. “Well, thank you…thank you, AJ. Yes, she is.”

Lex handed the picture back and ran back and jumped on the couch. He flicked quickly through the channels and waited for Robin to sit next to him. It was strange, he always knew he shared Robin with his son and other people but—Robin was in love. That was strange and for some reason, it made him sad.

Robin sank down onto the end of the couch and said, “You know you only have ten minutes, right?”

Lex pouted. “Yes, yes—I know.”

He stared at the TV and Robin stood. “Come on, let’s go—bedtime.” Lex dragged himself off the couch and slouched toward the door.

“Are you too old to be read to yet?” Robin asked.

Lex jerked his head up and grinned. “No—not yet.”

“All right then. Your choice.”

Lex felt lighter. Okay—Robin still loved him, too.

 

A few days passed before Lionel decided to drive out to the Kent farm--again. Where he’d been turned down by the Kents—again. He wasn’t about to be stopped by a couple of simple dirt farmers. This really was the last straw, now he was about to handle that corn-fed cocksucker the way Dear Dad would have, may he rot in hell. He took a deep breath, smoothed his lapels. Not personally of course. Fire…Gas explosion, anything could happen on a farm. Lionel glanced at himself in the rear view mirror. Hell. it didn’t cost much to have a social misfit with a baseball bat appear on someone’s doorstep—it was criminal really, how cheap it was.

He drove too fast down the country roads, letting the roar of the engine fill his head, letting his anger drain off in the feel of the car humming with power under him. He drove until he was under control again, turned and headed back to the Kent farm. He parked a distance from the Kent house, looked down on the field he coveted. He could see the house just past the barn, heard the roar of a tractor engine in the distance. There was Kent, roaring along in the field that should be his, sitting like a prince on that damn tractor, the boy in his lap.

The tractor-slowed and the boy stood, and then—leaped off the tractor—Kent never stopped. What the hell? Kent didn’t react at all; he let the boy jump down and never turned a hair. Had he misread the relationship? He’d seemed genuinely fond of the child…

The boy hit the dirt and it appeared, hit it hard. Lionel expected to hear something, a scream from the boy, a shout from the man but the child leaped up, running and laughing and Lionel froze—how in the fuck was that possible? Could Kent’s son be another boy like Lex? But this boy looked normal…Lionel watched, his heart beating harder as he watched the boy dance around behind the tractor, and Kent called him and pointed to a fallen tree limb. Lionel could see his face brighten from where he was—he ran to the front of the tractor, and picked up the limb---which was as thick around as Kent himself—too heavy for a grown man to pick up in one hand, which was just what the boy did. shit…—the boy picked it up, tossed it aside like it was made of paper. Strong, unbelievably strong. Stronger than any kid in the stable, fuck…what I could do with that….

Fuck the land—he just found something even more valuable. That child was obviously mutated by the bizarre properties of the meteorites, in a different way than Lex. He wasn’t simply human, any more than Lex was now. But this one was…super human. He wanted that—and somehow he was going to get it.

Calls to the bank, timely purchases, a few bribes and a threat or two here and there, and the Kents’ finances were in his hand. He probably should have done this earlier—but then, he wouldn’t have discovered the treasure they were hiding. Now, he had to convince them their only choice was to give it up or lose everything.

The next time he called on the Kents, he’d have all the cards in his hands. He looked forward to making them crawl. Especially that fucking stick of wood, Jonathan Kent. artha, now…he could find plenty of uses for her….

He came away from the farm with his composure cracked. He was sweating; he was so furious that it took him minutes to recover. This was not good. Control—his job was making other people lose theirs. They had turned him down, willing to live on the street, to lose everything, just to keep their son. Not possible. He needed that boy. He was steaming mad when he drove blindly away from the farm that evening—and that night, a miracle occurred.

He was back in his office, scowling at the thought that he’d have to do this the messy way after all. He’d sent Lex back to Metropolis in his bodyguard’s care. He needed to be able to concentrate completely on the problem. He’d found out that the child wasn’t the Kents’ biological child. There were no records concerning him anywhere. The locals described some vague connection the boy had to an obviously fictitious Metropolitan cousin of Martha’s. He had no idea where the boy came from and frankly, didn’t care. All he saw was that it should be easier to erase them and take what he wanted. He was debating his next step when one of the men he had watching the farm asked to come in.

His man looked triumphant. Lionel sat back. “This had better be better than good,” he drawled.

“I’ve got something weird here,” he said, “I thought it might be important.” He gave Lionel a camera, and captured in a short video was the boy in the field he’d seen them in earlier that week, crying and apparently writhing in pain. The next instant, Kent dashed over, scrabbled in the dirt and found something, shut it in a tube of some sort and the boy rolled to his feet again, fine, as if nothing had ever happened.

“This is what he found,” the man said as he unscrewed the cap of a tube, shook a piece of dull greenish stone on the desk and laid the tube next to it. Lionel recognized the tube as the one Kent handled in the video. Lionel picked it up and examined it. It was threaded on the open end, the shape of the tube bottom looked familiar. He cast the other man a puzzled look and hazarded a guess. “It’s a shell casing…”

The man nodded. “A mortar shell casing. Kent had a few pieces of the green stone in it, hidden in a toolbox in the barn. Here’s what’s interesting. If the stone is in the shell, the kid’s not bothered by it. Outside of the shell, it makes him sick—deadly ill. The casing is lead, I think, and I know they use lead to shield against radiation. Seems to block whatever’s in the stone that makes the kid sick. It didn’t seem to bother Kent, and I’ve been handling it all the way here and it didn’t affect me in any way.”

Lionel smiled, looked mildly interested. “I see. How…interesting. What else do you have?”

The man’s face fell a little. “Just--just this—I thought I should get it to you right away.”

“Ah. And did you confer with anyone else before bringing…this…to my attention?” he asked, his tone plainly that of a busy man forced to deal with an incompetent underling.

The man thought he’d failed by not going through channels and reluctantly admitted that he hadn’t. Lionel smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m pleased with this information. Go to the garage, I’ll have one of the drivers take you back to Metropolis to…celebrate. I’m feeling very generous. You’ve done a sterling job.”

The man left beaming. Lionel laughed softly to himself as he practically strutted out of the room, Lionel’s promise of reward the only thing on his mind. Lionel called ahead and gave instructions—the ride was definitely to be one-way. “The man I’m sending down to you is a problem. Take care of it. Contact me when you’re done.”

He hung up and smiled. No parent would bargain against the life of their child. He tilted the shell and listened to the rock rattle inside. He’d visit them again and this time, he planned to take everything.

Jonathan looked at the serpent in the chair in front of him; the Devil was in his living room, smiling like he was an invited guest. His heart beat wildly and he struggled to control the rage that threatened to break free. His family needed him to keep calm. This monster wasn’t going to beat him--he just couldn’t.

“It was kind of you to invite me in, Mr. Kent,” and Martha gasped in outrage.

Jonathan laid a hand on her wrist, pressing gently. “What do you want now, Luthor? We already told you to go to hell—you’ll never get Cal.” Martha sat at his side, trembling, and he could feel the weight of her hatred of the man.

Lionel laid an envelope and a sheet of paper on the table, in front of Jonathan. “Mr. Kent, simply put, I own you. Or, at least I own this farm.”

Jonathan glanced down-- the paper detailed Lionel’s purchase of his loan, his assumption of his debts—the machinery he’d purchased, the livestock, feed…everything he owned was Lionel’s, everything…. Tears ran down Martha’s face, and Jonathan squeezed her wrist. “Don’t,” he whispered.

Lionel said, “Pardon me, I didn’t hear that?”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” he snapped. “We’ve been over this before and our answer is the same. Hell no. I hope you choke on this place, you bastard. But we’d rather lose every damn thing we have and then some before we’d let you take Cal away from us.”

Lionel chuckled. “Well Jonathan, that’s an amusing choice of words, because it’s come down to exactly that—‘and then some’—“

Jonathan jerked to his feet and Martha stumbled to her feet as well, her hand clutching at his arm, more to stop her self from leaping forward then to steady herself, he knew. Jonathan cursed inside. She’d kill herself trying to protect him, to protect Cal, damn it. He glared at Lionel and let every bit of the hatred he felt shine out of his eyes. He felt a little lick of satisfaction when Lionel moved back slightly, for a moment his lizard smooth exterior cracked. Just a moment, and then that smile, that look that said, ‘I eat fools like you for breakfast every day’ slid back across his face. He reached for the briefcase at his feet and Jonathan tensed, waiting for…anything.

Lionel said, “I told you when I came to your door this evening that I had a last proposal for you. That was not it. That,” he jerked his chin toward the table and the paper laid there. “was just to let you know where we stand. This is the proposal. I’ll forgive all your debt, release the farm back to your control. All you have to do is give me the boy--”

“Cal?” Jonathan laughed out loud. “You’re crazy— how many fucking ways do I have to tell you no?” Jonathan snarled, took a step forward. What did he have to lose—he was going to beat the crap out of this guy. He was going to kill him and bury his psycho ass in the corn. They’d suffered enough—it was his turn now.

He took one more step forward when the click of the briefcase lock made him hesitate. Lionel put something on the table. Jonathan started, and nausea spread through him It was one of the mortar shell casings from the barn, the shells his grandfather had stored in the loft, souvenirs of the Great War…Lionel picked it up and shook it. “Imagine what I found inside this shell. So strange…”

Jonathan felt sick, hot and sick all over. Martha let out a small shriek and he jumped.

Lionel said, “Open the envelope.”

Martha snatched it from the table, ripped it open, her face wet with tears as she pulled photographs out and quickly shuffled them in her hand. She was pale, shaking, as she handed the pictures to Jonathan.

He was looking at Cal—moving the log in the field, crying on the ground as he shoveled the green stone into the lead tube, Cal lifting the tractor…

“He can move faster than an automobile, he’s stronger than a grown man, his skin is amazingly tough…” He shook the shell again. “And he can be harmed, maybe killed by this…stone.”

Martha whirled and ran to the gun cabinet behind the couch, and Lionel watched her pull out a rifle without moving. Jonathan grabbed her, snatched the gun from her grip and she screamed and punched him. “He’s ready for that—do you think he came unarmed, without protection? Not this time!” He spoke rapidly, held Martha’s head between his hands and willed her to believe, to understand. “He’s ready to kill us all, he’s as ready as we are.” He looked back at the Devil, and wished he could burn him to death with the hatred he felt.

Lionel stood and clasped his hands behind his back. “Yes.” he nodded, “Oh, you might shoot me, but you’d be dead, your…son…would be dead. Do you really want to be the cause of his death? Give him to me, or he will die.” Lionel leaned forward and froze them with an intense look. “Give him to me and he’ll live. And if it means anything—he’ll have the best I can provide, things you could never give him. A beautiful home, the best education available, safety from--well let’s just say that if I discovered his secret, who’s to say who else would? Anyone else would want to cut him open, take him apart to try to see how he works. I won’t do that. Promise.” He smiled. “I want him whole and healthy, believe me.”

Martha looked at Jonathan, eyes completely rimmed by white, her breath jerked and stumbled and he was afraid that she’d never survive this night. He shook his head, reached down for the rifle at his feet-- Cal would survive, and somehow, he’d be fine, he told himself.

Lionel lifted a cell phone from his pocket, held it so they could see.

“If I don’t call in a few minutes to check in, my men will come in—they’ll kill you first and make Cal watch. And just so you know, they all have the means to kill Cal.” He followed Martha’s gaze to the shell in his hands. “And dead, I won’t be able to tell them to do it quickly.”

Jonathan turned to Martha. “Go get him.”

“NO!” she screamed and ran at him, teeth bared, hands clawed. She raked his arms, his face, she screamed, “You son of a bitch! You can’t—no! NO!”

He grabbed her hands and shook her until her hair flew. They were both crying. “He’ll kill him—understand? He’ll kill him.”

“No, no,” she cried, “no I can’t…”

Cal appeared at the top of the stairs, Bear hanging from one hand. “Mommy, what’s wrong?”

Martha opened her mouth to scream and Jonathan hugged her to his chest. He called Cal to him.

“Son, Mommy and Daddy need to go away. You’re going with Mr. Lionel for a bit. Until we can get you again…” he broke down, choking, unable to draw in breath to speak. He felt as if he’d been punched in the chest, stabbed. He pulled Cal towards him, picked him up and held him between himself and Martha. They curved around each other, Martha’s face buried in Cal’s hair, his neck, and Jonathan leaned over. He filled his nose with the scent of him, willed his fingers to memorize the feel of him, the feel of his little heart thumping slowly and steadily away…He heard Martha beg for time, time to pack his things, please, his toys and Lionel granting permission like the Lord of the manor. He cursed himself for being a coward--he was filled with self-loathing. He couldn’t lift his head from his son's shoulder.

Cal patted his head and tried to lift his face. “What’s the matter, where are you going?”

He set Cal down, held his hand and Martha appeared in the living room doorway, holding a brightly colored children’s suitcase. He took the suitcase from her and she scooped up Cal. She was dry–eyed and she smiled as she bounced him on her hip. “Honey, just for a while. You’re going with Mr. Luthor for a little while and then we’ll come get you.”

Jonathan stared hard at Lionel, waiting for him, just…waiting for him to laugh or say anything, but Lionel remained silent, motionless.

She looked at him, determined and ferocious. “He’s got to change clothes. He can’t leave in pajamas.”

“Do it here.” Lionel granted her wish with a flick of his wrist and again Jonathan vibrated with the desire to snap it off—he was going to touch his son—he was going to take him…Jonathan felt weak, dizzy as his heart raced, he didn’t think a heart could beat that fast and not explode.

He watched Martha calmly undress Cal, and dress him in jeans and a sweatshirt. She laced his tiny boots on his feet, an exact copy of his. He remembered going to Fordhams with him to buy the boots and how pleased he’d been. Even now, half awake and puzzled, he twisted his feet to look at them and smiled sleepily. “Like daddy’s,” and Martha nodded, smiled back at him.

Jonathan was horrified at the strength his wife had, the terrible, terrible strength to do this. He felt cowardly, weak. His insides collapsed tighter and tighter inside until breathing hurt.

They walked Cal out to the car; a walk that took an eternity. Martha carried him all the way down the drive, Jonathan followed. After a million years, they stood outside the car, and he said, “We don’t want to leave you—we just can’t do anything else right now. Believe me when I say, I love you. I’ll always love you.” Cal started to look worried, so he kissed him, over and over until Cal squirmed and protested. He let him go and Martha dropped to the ground beside him. She kissed his cheek and Cal made a face.

He squeezed Bear tight, and his face started to crumble. His eyes filled. “You come too.”

Martha said, “I can’t come right now, but guess what?” She pointed at the center of his chest and pressed her fingers there. “I’ll always be here, I promise you. I’ll always be looking out for you. You may not see me but you’ll always feel me.” Jonathan snapped, something inside of him broke and he lunged for his son, and then he was on his back gasping for air, and Cal screamed and reached out for his mother.

Jonathan heard the crack and the pained cry, he turned his head and saw Martha white with pain, wrist ballooning as he watched. Cal was red-faced, yelling, crying, and then he was flung into the car, and the last he saw of Cal was his tear washed face surrounded by Lionel’s men, green armbands glowing in the darkness.

 

Cal looked back in horror—he hurt Mommy…

”Noooo..” he started to cry and the door slammed shut, the car was moving fast down the drive way. He jumped up and raised his hand to break the glass and get out of the car and he felt something hurt, deep in his chest, spreading like fire through his limbs, blackness crept over his vision. He couldn’t see Mommy or Daddy anymore.

Gray light eased around the deep black, slowly, slowly brightening, until the light was red, and he realized he was seeing light through his eyelids. He opened his eyes and the nightmare was still there. He hurt from head to toe; no one was with him except the bad man…tears flooded his eyes again. He still had Bear, and he buried his face in his fur. Bear loved him. Bear smelled like his room and a little like Mommy—fresh tears spilled over curly brown fur.

He hurt her…he hurt Mommy. He heard a little noise and looked up. The bad man was staring at him, smiling at him. Cal shook all over and tried to stop crying—he didn’t like to cry in front of strangers. He took in a long shaky breath. It was okay, Mommy and Daddy were going to come for him; he knew it. He felt confused, and worried. Why had they let him go? Maybe…maybe he did something wrong… he’d find out what it was and fix it. Maybe it was too late, though—he was supposed to always be careful and look what he did. It was a bad, bad thing.

The bad man kept watching him and Cal wanted to tell him to stop looking at him.

He shifted on the seat, licked his lips and spoke. “They’re not coming for you, you know.” He tilted his head and his hair covered part of his face. It made him look scarier. “They don’t want you anymore, not after what you did.” He ignored Cal’s gasp of horror. “They decided you were too much trouble, always breaking things, so ugly…” He shook his head sadly. “They sold you to me. You belong to me now.”

Cal leaned back, his chest heaving, lips working. He was lying. Mommy loved him, she’d never sell him—Daddy would never sell him—

“What’s your name?” the man asked in a soft voice, and Cal automatically answered.

”My name is Cal Kent.”

Lionel shook his head and he looked so sad. “No. Not anymore. Those people even took your name back. They want to give it to a good boy, a pretty boy.” He looked up at Cal. “I’m sorry. You don’t have a name anymore.”

Cal blinked hard against the tears that welled up. He didn’t care what the man said. He had a name and it was Cal. But…but…didn’t it used to be something else once? Didn’t someone else give him away? He felt the memories of another life dissolve like smoke as he reached for them. Maybe that was just an old dream he remembered.

The man held something up. “Look. I have something for you.” He opened a box and in it sat a little circle with something shiny on it. As he looked, the Man popped open a big clip on the side of the circle. It looked very much like the collar Butch, the feed store dog, wore. “Come see,” he said, and Cal leaned forward and the man snapped it quickly around his neck.

Cal dropped back against the seat, limbs jerking from the shock to his system. He gagged and gagged, and saliva ran down his chin as his body tried to remember the process of swallowing. It took long moments for the pain to recede, for his throat to open enough that he could breathe and swallow again. He moaned, terrified, hurting, ashamed…the seat under him was wet. He cried, he could feel his jeans were wet He was bad—he’d peed on himself.

Lionel sneered and sat back. “When you prove to me—if you prove to me-- that you deserve a name, I’ll put it on this.”

The collar sat like a heavy weight against his neck. The urge to swallow battled with the fear of throwing up, fear that kept him kept him quiet and still. The vague ill feeling he’d experienced since getting in the car was intensified, and thick waves of nausea washed over him. The darkness at the corners of his eyes kept reaching for him, trying to pull him down, and finally he gave up and let it take him.

Lionel watched the boy quietly and rather neatly pass out. He approved. He moved the boy’s slim limbs onto the seat, until he stretched along the length of it. He wrinkled his nose at the faint scent of urine. He’d need to have that seat recovered. The expense would be minimal but it annoyed him--the car would be out of commission for a while.

Lionel turned the events of the evening over in his head. He was mildly surprised how effective the meteorite was. It was one thing to see the marvelous effect on the screen, but the reality was quite dramatic. The boy’s reaction had been sudden and apparently rather painful. He reacted stronger to the collar than the chips the men wore on the bracelets he’d issued them—and the amount of stone was minute, really—perhaps it was skin contact that made it more effective. He looked down on the pale features. He had all the time he needed to experiment, discover what the boy was capable of. Perhaps he could combine the research on this boy with the research he’d conducted on Lex. He imagined the results would be interesting, to say the least.

He turned the heavy band on the boy’s throat. He seemed to have hit on the proper amount of powdered green stone to sew between the strips of leather. That was a bit of luck. He looked the powder-coated latch on the collar over. In the next version, he’d see if the stone could be mixed into the metal itself. He ran his finger over the latch and along the thick leather band, stopping at the blank metal tag. He smiled. Filling the blank tag with a name would give the boy something to work toward, to want. Everyone needed to want something, after all.

He noticed the boy’s suitcase on the floor and the ratty teddy bear lying on top of it. He considered throwing the whole mess out but curiosity made him open the case instead.

Inside were pretty much the items one would expect to find—clothes, another pair of shoes and a pair of cheap sneakers. There was a small knitted blanket, obviously an infant’s blanket, but not very worn…there were a few board books and a few pictures, including one of the Kents. Sweet, he sneered. Souvenirs of Mommy and Daddy…he took all the pictures and locked them into his briefcase. There might come a day the pictures would be useful to him, in the meantime, they were of no use to the boy.

The rest of the items he crammed back into the suitcase –just garbage, he’d dispose of it at their next stop. He set the bag down and the boy’s perfectly modeled features captured his attention again. He was beautiful, even more beautiful in pain. He traced the shape of him with his eyes…with his hands….

He would keep the suitcase, let the boy have it. The clothes and shoes he’d outgrow, quickly. The blanket and bear would wear to tatters. None of it mattered much. After all, his real life was just beginning.

 

Chapter five

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.
-M. Acklam

The apartment below the Luthor residence was converted to Lionel’s specifications. The floor plan was altered to remove what in the Luthor apartment was a master bedroom and bath. That area became a featureless open space with a large cage in the center. The cell contained a cot, a trunk and nothing else. A gymnasium was made out of a living room and kitchen area. A smaller kitchen was created from a small bedroom; a dining area became a living room. One of the bathrooms was gutted and tiled from floor to ceiling, it became a large shower room. Shower jets were on all four walls and a hose hung from a hook on one wall.

The apartment retained two other bedrooms and a laundry room. It was by no stretch of the imagination homey, but it would perform the function Lionel wished it to—a place to train his newest toy.

LuthorCorp Tower was a landmark in Metropolis. Lionel owned the building, owned several in downtown Metropolis and maintained apartments in all of them, but the original Tower was his sentimental favorite. His family—such as it was, lived in the Tower. He conducted the major part of his business in the Tower.

Another building he loved was the gym—the former Metropolis Athletic Club. It was an eleven-story Art-Deco style building, refurbished and returned to its former glory. Now it was home of several floors of extremely exclusive luxury condominiums, an actual athletic club, and an invitation only gentleman’s club. There was a private gym, two floors contained living quarters for employees. There was a pool on the sixth floor for the condo owners and the athletic club members. The private club members weren’t interested in the pool or the gym…they only had the basement level in mind when they entered the building—that and the private club on the third floor.

Not everyone who lived in the building knew there was a private club, or gyms…they paid a lot of money for privacy, these were people who had no desire to interact with others in any way—at least not on their home turf and Lionel extended the opportunity to live in complete anonymity. It was lucrative, but not nearly as much as the private games in the basement.

The boy lay on his back on the cot. The collar chafed, and if he scratched at it, it made him feel sick to his stomach.

He wondered how long he’d been in the cage. How long it was going to be before they came to get him. He sighed and rolled to his side. He held Bear a little closer to his face, and sniffed. There was hardly any home smell left---Bear was beginning to smell of the disinfectant they used on the floors…he pulled the blanket over himself and shivered. He hated that smell. Since the man put him in the cage, he hadn’t seen anyone. He fell asleep and food came, he ate it and fell asleep again and food was gone and the floors smelled. There was a bucket at one side of the cage, and an empty trunk on the other that he sat on sometimes. The light shined in his eyes all the time and he felt like he was getting sicker, weaker. He sat on the cot and told Bear what their names were over and over so he wouldn’t forget, so Bear wouldn’t forget. He told him stories about the farm. They had to remember.

One day, food came and he was awake. It frightened him so bad, he crawled under the cot while a big man put food on the trunk. He left without looking.

When he was finished eating someone came for the tray. He watched him from under the cot. He saw feet walk into the cage, and stop at the trunk and then a metallic clang as the door shut again. He hid for a long time, his face buried in Bear’s tummy.

It was a change in his routine, one he found hard to adapt to. When the men came with the tray, he rolled under the cot and stayed there, watching their feet move. It happened a few times and then the Bad Man came. He acted differently than the men that brought his food. He bent down and looked under the cot. His hair swung forward and covered his face for a moment before he swept it back and smiled at him.

“Hello.”

He stayed under the cot, Bear clutched against his chest.

“Come out.”

He shook his head and pushed back farther until he felt the bars at his back.

“Come out or I’ll take your animal. You know I can do it so don’t waste our time.”

He thought about that—it was true. The man would make him fall asleep and take Bear. He slid out and stood next to his cot, head down.

“Good, good, I see you’re not too stupid.” The man stood. “My name is Lionel, and you…”

He looked up, waited for the man to speak his name.

“…You’re my little pet. My little dog.”

He frowned, and stepped back. He was not a dog. He was a boy. He could read and do puzzles and everything. “I’m not a dog!” and pain exploded in his head, it was so swift and shocking that he was stunned into silence.

The man stood over him, and shook his head, a sad expression on his face. Something on his hand glowed green—“that was the wrong thing to say. You shouldn’t talk to your owner like that.” Pain blew up in his head again, and then he was face down on the cot. A streak of burning pain ripped across his legs and it took a few moments for the pain to fade and for him to breathe again.

“Once you understand your role, and who I am, it will be better for you. I will make you very happy—if you’re good. I will make you very sad, if you’re bad.” He knelt and the glow was gone, in a little box at his feet. He stroked a soft hand over his chin, over his cheek.

“It makes me sad when you’re not good”. The man picked him up and held him on his lap and hummed a song he didn’t know until his eyes became heavy and his limbs relaxed, he was dropping into sleep. He knew this man was bad, but he was so tired, and no one had hugged him for a long, long time…he felt a kiss on his forehead.

“Goodnight little dog. We’ll continue the lesson tomorrow.”

 

He sat on the floor of the cage and tried to remember the place where he was happy all the time, and it smelled good, and there were soft touches. It was right on the edge of his mind but it kept moving back the harder he reached for it.

“Deep in thought?”

Lionel stood at the bars. He held something in his hand-a book—the book! He jumped to his feet. “My book!”

Lionel shook his head. “My book.” He opened it and flipped through the pages, chuckling as he did so. “What clever little dogs. I wonder if you’re as clever? Do you think you are?” He came to the door of the cage and unlocked it. Lionel had a thick leather leash in his hand and called him over. Lionel turned his head to the side and clipped the leash to the collar. “Today you get to prove to me how clever you are.”

He set his feet and refused to move and Lionel smiled. He let go and picked up the book again. A page was torn out and held up. “Do you want it?”

He gasped, “yes—“reached for it. This was terrible—Lionel was going to rip his book to pieces! It was a bad, bad thing to do!

“Then do as I say.” Lionel pulled at the leash again and he followed him, tears in his eyes at the thought of Bertie and Clark being torn apart.

He looked in surprise around him. He was in a big bright area with furniture and equipment he didn’t recognize here and there about the room—he was amazed and a little frightened. He’d begun to think there was nothing else in the world but the cage.

And then he saw something wonderful—sky, blue, blue sky and light and…the sun.

He ran to the glass doors and pressed his face against the warm glass and drank in the glow of the beautiful sun. He sighed in delight. The blanket of pain that was always wrapped around him lifted a bit. He felt just a little less ill, tired…He smiled at the sun and spread his arms against the doors. How he wished he could go outside and feel the rays on him, feel air touch him again.

“Come along,” Lionel said, “if you do what I tell you to do, and do it well, maybe we’ll go outside another day.”

He turned back to Lionel, hope in his heart. Could it be true? Would he let him go outside?

He nodded. “I promise,” and guided him gently to a table flanked by men in white, to begin the first in a long series of tests…but this wonderful new thing that happened, the opportunity to see the sun again, made it all worthwhile. He could accept anything as long as he got a chance to see the sun again.

 

“Good boy, can you lift more?” Lionel laid a hand on his head, smoothed back stray curls.

He nodded, eager to please, and waited while a man in a white coat added more weight to the machine. He pulled down on the bar in his hands and the weights creaked upwards. His arms shook a little but it didn’t hurt. He let the bar down slowly, Lionel didn’t like them to bang. He sat patiently while the man typed something on his little pad and then took his blood pressure, and his temperature. He knew the routine and waited.

This time though, the man in white also had a tray with needles in it.

He started to stand—he could run—but he’d never make it past the men with the green bracelets. He hated getting needles; they had to make him awfully sick before they could work the needles into his skin. Not even the desire to please could make him sit quietly. He whimpered, soft little sounds he couldn’t stop. He edged towards the end of the table; the paper seemed to crackle so loudly it drowned out the constant sound of music in the background. He wanted so badly not to get stabbed again; he wanted desperately to get away.

Lionel fixed him with a look. “Sit still. If you run…”

He gulped and nodded his head. He knew it was pointless to run. He let out a sob. He didn’t want to be bad, he didn’t want to upset Lionel, and most of all, he wanted his pages.

The doctor took his arm and cleaned it carefully, and painted a thick green paste on his skin. He bit his lip hard, hard as he could. Tears of pain ran down his cheeks. He took a deep breath and gasped again and again as the man pressed and wiggled the needle until it sunk into his skin. They took blood, tubes of it and just when he thought he’d have to scream, the needle was pulled out, glowing green, the evil glow he hated so much.

Lionel and the man spoke quietly together, glancing his way from time to time as another man in a white coat scrubbed the paste off his arm and the sudden lack of pain made him dizzy.

Lionel walked him back to the cage, there was going to be no sun today and that hurt him. He hoped to feel the sun today. He tried to keep the tears he felt burning under his lids from leaking out. This day had been sad. He didn’t want food or water, not even Bear. All he wanted was the impossible. He didn’t even get it in dreams now. Hard as he fought against it, a tear broke free, and rolled hot down his face.

Lionel came in with him instead of just locking the cage up and leaving. “You’ve been very good today. It was hard for you, I know.” He stroked his hair. “I’m pleased, very pleased. Show me the page you got today”

He reached into the trunk and pulled out the newest page he received and even though the words were kind, he worried that he’d done something wrong without knowing it and he’d lose this page, maybe all of them.

“Can you read it?” Lionel asked and something told him, don’t let him know everything. He shook his head tentatively, not really sure if he could lie to him or not….

Lionel studied his face and after a bit, smiled. “You keep that page; maybe you’ll earn the whole book.” He stood then and held his hand out; he did what he always did when Lionel held his hand out, and came close so that he could kiss him.

“Good night.” Lionel stroked his hair, his fingers lingered on his neck and then he was gone.

He lay on his cot and stared at the page…he almost didn’t remember the words, but he tried. He worked hard all night long, through dinner and snack, he tried to remember all the words, with Bear under his head and the blanket tucked around him.

Days passed but he had no idea how many. No one talked to him, only Lionel and Lionel didn’t tell him. There was no sun rising and setting to help him divide the days.

There was food and sleep. There was Lionel.

 

One year later…

One day Lionel came and sat outside the cage, talking to him. He leaned against the bar and let him scratch his head, play with his hair. Lionel liked that. Lately His hands smelled so good that he wanted to smell them all the time. He would press them to his face and even though it puzzled Lionel, he would laugh and let him do it. Lionel would ask from time to time why, but all he could say was that it smelled good. It did, in his nose, and in his middle. He opened his mouth and breathed in. It smelled good on his tongue too.

“I have a treat for you today. You’ve been good.” He had been good--he’d won back all the pages and he rarely had to be disciplined anymore… Lionel twisted the collar around his neck and rubbed his finger over part of it, unlatched it and the feeling of rocks rubbing together under his skin faded.

“See this--” and he pointed out a shiny blank square on the collar. “Do you remember what I told you the day you came to live with me?”

He shook his head hesitantly. All he remembered was a yellow house, and the people in it making him leave, because he’d hurt one of them, or because they didn’t want him…It happened a long time ago. He didn’t like to remember that.

Lionel grabbed his chin and forced him to look into his eyes. “I told you that I’d give you a name.” He stared into Lionel’s eyes and hoped he wouldn’t anger him—he didn’t remember anything about that.

Lionel shrugged. “It’s perfectly okay not to remember. What name do you want?”

He felt dizzy, weak again. What name? He didn’t have a name. He looked at the little worn lump of fur on his cot.

He had no name to give him.

“You don’t have a name?”

He shook his head again.

Lionel smiled wide. “Give me your pages.” He pulled away slowly and opened his trunk. Lionel probably meant to take the pages back--but he didn’t want to say a name. He had no name.

Lionel looked at the pages and laughed. He pointed at a picture of a short brown and white dog, smiling up from the page, sitting in a big green meadow.

He remembered the words on the page.

“Which one, which name do you want?” Lionel pointed between the two dogs. “This one,” he said, pointing at the black and white dog, “Is Bertie.” He chuckled. “And this fellow,” he touched the brown and white dog,” Is Clark.”

He looked at the smiling dog leaning against the black and white dog, he knew their names. He chose the brown and white dog. “This one,” he said. “Him.”

A few days later Lionel came into his cage with a man and Lionel made him bend over the cot as the man did something to his collar, whatever he had in his hand buzzed and pressed the leather against his neck. He was feeling queasy by the time the man finished and left again.

Lionel gave him a mirror so he could see that the blank square on the collar had something on it now.

“It says Clark,” Lionel said. He touched his hair a lot and called him Clark. He kissed him over and over until he was very warm. “I love you Clark,” he said. “No one else in the whole world loves you like I do. No one else cares. I’ll never give you away. I promise.”

 

“Clark. “

He turned to the name; he didn’t even have to think about it now. He smiled at Lionel, looking forward to a break in his day. Maybe they were going to the terrace, or to look at films, he liked that. At first the pictures of fighting bothered him, but now, he appreciated them as a change in routine. Some of the fighters were very good. Some day, when he was older, he’d fight for Lionel too, like the other men did. He’d make him more proud then the other fighters did.

“I think it’s time for you to learn something new—you’ll like it.”

Clark tilted his head and waited. He didn’t speak unless Lionel wanted him too.

“Take your things off.”

Clark was puzzled. Was it time to take a shower? He took off his clothes and folded them carefully, laid them on the trunk and stood with his hands crossed, waiting to go to the shower.

“Get on the bed.”

Clark was confused now. This was out of his routine completely. He sat on the bed and the collar stuck under his chin. He tried to move it and Lionel pushed him back.

“Shhh”, he said, even though Clark didn’t make a sound. He knew not to. He stroked him, from his throat to his knees and that was something he was used to. He relaxed a little and let Lionel touch him. Lionel put his hand on his belly and rubbed a little, and he relaxed more, feeling sleepy. Lionel smelled very good today, the good smell filed the air and he breathed deep

“This is going to hurt,” Lionel said and that was different, too.

Later Clark pulled his sheets over his head and rolled himself in a ball. Lionel told him that they’d come to take him to the shower. He felt sick and sticky and he wanted to get out of his skin. It hurt, that much was true. It hurt a lot. It confused him too. Why did he do that? Clark pulled the cover tighter over his head. He wished desperately that he didn’t feel sick all the time. If he could just get outside, out in the sun, it would be so much better. He sucked in a shuddery breath and tried to concentrate on what was good in his life. Food. Water. His…blanket. The terrace. When Lionel spoke nicely to him. When he petted him. When he smelled so good that nothing else could bother him.

He got tired of waiting and let himself fall asleep.

 

Lex wasn’t happy. The visits to Dr. K, instead of getting less like Lionel said they would, stepped up in the last year. Every couple of days he was at the clinic. It was awful; he was poked and stabbed like a pincushion and no one would tell him why.

Maybe…maybe he was sick and no one wanted to tell him. One of the guys at school had gotten sick, and no one would talk about him. He just disappeared one day. Later Jacob told him the kid had died, cancer or something, he’d said. Lex didn’t know whether or not to trust what Jacob said—he didn’t really give a fuck about anyone or anything. Jacob was kind of a jerk.

All he knew was that the tests were getting stranger and stranger. They’d made him lick a stone—lick a stone!—what the fuck was that about? And he’d had some green stuff shot into him, and had to go in that damn tube….that stuff made him feel bad, but they didn’t care. And since they’d started messing with him, he was healing faster and faster—to the point he had to hide it most times. He was enough of a freak; he didn’t have to give those jerk-offs more ammo. At least he wasn’t working one on one with Dr. K that much.

Once again, he sat on the table, ass out and freezing in the stupid office, doing the stupid waiting thing. When the door opened, it wasn’t Dr. K. It was some strange guy with little glasses and a bushy mustache. This guy didn’t even speak; he set a kit down on the table, sat in Dr. K’s tractor seat and opened a laptop and read something. He acted like Lex wasn’t even there and that pissed him off. Rude ass-hole. Fine. There was no need for him to be polite either.

The guy stood and said “hold out your arm,” like he was talking to a kid. Lex did so with a sneer. The guy rubbed his arm down, reached down into the kit, swept something out and stabbed him.

Lex howled and jerked violently. His arm twisted in the man’s grasp, but his grip was like iron and he made no sign that he cared, even noticed that Lex was in pain. He scrubbed a piece of gauze through the blood running down his arm.

“Interesting,” he muttered and released Lex’s arm. The gash that should have been there wasn’t—a pink scar was the only thing marking his arm.

Lex sat hunched on the table, sobbing, but otherwise silent. The man turned to him, eyebrow raised when Lex made no further protest.

Lex looked at him and cursed. “Why the fuck should I carry on? You wouldn’t do anything my father didn’t want you to do.”

“You are intelligent,” he said, with a small smirk. “In case you’re interested—this instant healing effect is temporary. When you no longer have the meteorite in your system, you will go back to normal levels of healing—or what’s become normal for you. We’d like to know why the effect is temporary…but your father isn’t interested in that.” He sounded extremely disappointed about that.

Lex felt an ice-cold grip in the center of him. Lucky him. “Are we done?”

“Dr. Keller will examine you next,” the man said, disinterested in Lex now that he was finished. He repacked his kit and left without a word.

Dr. Keller entered the room, quietly, almost furtively. He refused to meet Lex’s eyes, but after shuffling his papers back and forth a bit and fiddling with the adjustments on his stool he looked up. “I—I’m sorry,” he said, so low that Lex barely heard him. fuck you and your sorry he thought.

“I---I need to. Um. Take your gown down, please.”

Lex slid it off his shoulders and Dr. Keller went through the routine, stopping at the pale pink line running up his arm. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I would never have done that to you. I’d never hurt you.”

Lex wished he’d leave him alone, stop talking to him. Frightening and painful as his encounter with the other man had been, Dr. K was still creepier. This time, he made Lex lean back, he felt from his sternum to his belly, he pressed and hummed and asked if Lex felt pain, and then he was touching him again where it made him nervous. He touched his penis and asked him how it felt.

Lex looked at him.

“How does it feel? Like you’re touching me.”

Dr. Keller moved his fingers slower, stroking, skimming fingers over his skin. When he stopped he was breathing harder and Lex wanted to scald his skin. All he could think of was to get away.

He was quiet in the car, staring out the window. His parka collar was pulled up around his face, he didn’t look at Robin, he grunted when he spoke to him. Ray looked at him in the rearview mirror and Lex glanced up to meet the green eyes staring in concern back at him. His stomach twisted, he felt a little sick and he could feel his face turning red, he felt the heat of it. Robin glanced over and asked him if he was okay.

“Leave me alone,” Lex muttered. “I’m not a baby”

“Nobody said that. I just—you’re usually not this quiet. Was it rough today?”

“Jesus—leave me the mother-fuck alone, will you?” Lex snapped and kicked the back of driver’s seat. He left a long scuff of gray against the black leather.

“Hey!” Ray yelled, startled. “What the hell?”

Robin motioned Ray to pull over and when they sat idling at the curb, he looked hard at Lex.

“What’s the matter—“ he held his hand up”—and please don’t curse again.”

Lex nodded. “I’m sorry.” He hung his head. “I don’t like Dr. K.”

“I know you don’t,” he said. “He’s a jerk. We all know he’s a jerk.” But he still looked concerned, and he was starting to look a little angry, even though the hand he put on Lex’s shoulder cupped him gently, squeezed just a little, in encouragement.

“Yeah well…he. He touches me. Touched me. I don’t like the way he….” Lex sank further into his parka and closed his eyes.

Robin leaned back against the seat and fixed Lex with an intense look. He asked him gently,” How do you mean touch, honey?” He spoke to him softly, the way he did when he’d gotten hurt or upset as a little kid and Lex wanted to cry like a baby, but he spoke as clearly as he could. “He touches me like—the way you shouldn’t, not like an exam.” He waited for Robin to yell at him for not telling sooner, to tell him he was crazy.

“Ray, you wanna drive back to the institute?” Robin was calm and quiet, and he put an arm around Lex’s shoulder.

“Hell yeah, I do,” Ray said, and wheeled the car around back the way they came. They pulled up in front of the institute and Robin got out. “Wait here, you need to stay with AJ,” he said firmly when Ray wanted to get out too. He nodded and the both of them watched Robin walk up the stairs and into the doors, tall, straight, head high, his coat billowing out in the chill fall breeze….

“Is he going to hit Dr. Keller, you think?” Lex asked.

“No, AJ, I think he’s going to beat the living shit out of him.”

Lex stared at the glass doors, the burst of activity he could see behind them. “Good.”

Minutes later Robin strode out of the doors again, shaking his coat back into place. He got in the car and said,” We’ll go home and tell your dad now, okay?”

Lex asked, “Do we have to tell Dad? He’s not going to care, you know. He’s got other things on his mind, more important things--”

“Don’t say that kid, it’s not true,” Ray said, catching Lex’s eyes in the rear view mirror. “You’re important to your dad.”

Robin sat back with his arms crossed over his chest; He stared out the window, silent, deep in thought. Silence filled the car and Lex sank back against the car seat. He knew it was just going to get worse.

Lionel called him into the den shortly before bedtime. Lex stood by his desk, eyes fixed on the sword hanging on the wall behind his dad’s head. He waited, hands behind his back, for his dad to say anything.

“So. Robin tells me he roughed up Dr. Keller. Broke his nose. Maybe his jaw. Most definitely a finger or two.”

Lex remained still and silent.

“Do you want to tell me why?”

Lex jerked his attention to Lionel. “You know why.”

Lionel smiled. “Go to bed.”

“What about Robin--”

Lionel smiled wider, and Lex felt ill. He moved back and Lionel came around the desk. He stopped Lex with a hand on his shoulder; the hand slid up his neck and cupped his cheek. His thumb rubbed over and over his smooth, nearly hairless brow.

“There’s a way to do things…chain of command. Robin should have come to me, but he ignored it.” Lionel spread his fingers, cupped the back of Lex’s head. “Now, I can’t let that go unpunished, can I?”

“Please don’t hurt him,” Lex begged and felt his eyes fill. He could see the amusement in Lionel’s eyes. “Please…” he whispered. His dad’s fingers tightened painfully on his skull.

“All right. I won’t hurt him. I promise.” He pushed Lex back against his desk, gently in a way, and touched his neck. The touch was so light he barely felt it. He could be imagining it

“Your skin is very…interesting.” He slid his fingers around until they touched his face. “So smooth, so cool…not like anyone else. Unique.” He splayed his hand over Lex’s cheek and bent down to touch his lips to it. “Like a pearl. Warms under one’s touch, like a pearl...” He straightened and let Lex go, and Lex moved quickly to the door.

“There’s a price tag on everything, Lex. Remember that. That’s the way the world works.”

Lex pushed out through the door, was that a warning or an explanation or was his dad just a heartless fucking son-of-a-bitch?

Lex wasn’t really surprised that Robin was gone within the week. He was heartbroken and devastated but not surprised. Robin knew he’d be fired the moment he struck Keller but he did what he felt was right. He told Lex that as he packed. “I’d do it again, AJ. I only regret not being here for you anymore. Ray will keep an eye on you. Trust him.”

Lex nodded, and concentrated on not crying. “Don’t forget your pictures,” he said and picked up a framed print of Robin and his son from his desk. Robin handed him the framed picture. “You keep this, I have lots of pictures of me and Robby.” He opened his carry on and showed him another picture. “I have the pictures you gave me.” He smiled at Lex and let him look in the bag. There was a picture of him and Ray at the park, there was a picture of Robin with his arm around him in front of the building. He remembered that day; it’d been his birthday….

“Hey, that’s great Robin. Those are great pictures…nice.”

Robin zipped the bag and set it down on the floor. He grabbed Lex and hugged him tight, hard, hugged him until his ribs creaked and Lex wanted him to hug harder.

“I’ll miss you. I’ll never forget you, okay? Never.”

“Me too,” Lex managed, jumped off the bed and ran from the room. He slammed into his own room and threw himself on the bed. He hated his dad so much, he hated him…but he’d kept his word so far. He’d fired him, but hadn’t hurt Robin. That counted for something.

Ray was gone most of the day. He came back late at night, and Lex found him quietly drunk and sitting in the back of the car. He was still wearing his LuthorCorp jacket, and he smelled of alcohol. Lex leaned in the open door and Ray barely lifted his head from the seat. He looked at him blearily. “What time is it?”

“After two, he replied.

“Fuck. You should be in bed. What the hell are you doing down here?”

“I thought…I was waiting for you.”

“Oh. Sorry.” He belched quietly and sank a little lower in the seat, taking up the entire seat and most of the floor. He had a bruise on his cheek, and what looked like blood under his chin. He looked terrible and Lex asked if he was okay.

“Yeah—stupid really…got into a fight and didn’t bother to win it…” His voice trailed off and when Lex moved closer he seemed to come back to himself. “Sure, sure, I’m fine. How ‘bout you, you all right? I know how important Robin was to you.” His voice sounded strained and rough, and cracked just a little on ‘Robin’.

“Ray…are you sure….”

“I just—I just drank too much, that’s all.”

Lex climbed over his legs and sat in the dark with him. They sat quietly for a while. Lex assumed that he’d fallen asleep, but he didn’t want to leave him like that, in the dark by himself.

He was startled out of a light doze when Ray suddenly started speaking, so quietly he was speaking to himself, Lex knew.

“I just couldn’t be here. I should never have told him…I’m an idiot.” he took a deep breath and said a little firmer, “I have no idea what I’m babbling about. “ Ray leaned across the seat and poked him a little. “Go to bed kid. It’ll all be better soon.”

Lex let himself be gently pushed out the car and went back upstairs. He thought about what Ray had said and he felt bad for him. It was scary in a way…he’d always thought grown-ups would have figured out the mine field of love but apparently not. He loved Robin too, but he knew it wasn’t just the difference in age that had made it impossible…poor Ray. Did he really think he was hiding it that well?

Fall became winter and neither he nor Ray heard from Robin, Lex hadn’t really expected to hear from him again, just…a little corner of his heart hoped that he’d try to contact him in some way.

He exhaled noisily and bit down on the filter of the cigarette he was smoking with a vengeance. Stupid really, it didn’t mean that Robin loved him any less—and it showed he had a healthy sense of self-preservation after all.

He still paid the price of his safety, let Lionel touch him whenever he wanted to and said not a word. At least he confined himself to just feeling his skin. Lex shuddered. He didn’t get it—what was the big deal? What the hell was so different about his skin….

He leaned against the sink and jammed the cigarette into the corner of his mouth, pulled his jacket collar up. As usual the ancient boilers were barely up to the task of heating the cavernous interiors of the J. Parker School for Burgeoning Homicidal Maniacs, est.1926. He felt the cold of the porcelain bite into the small of his back. He pulled on the cigarette again--couple more drags, by the time he was done, ceramics class should be over. Ceramics. He snorted. What the hell was the point of that? He was interested in things that had relevance to his life-- playing with mud was not one of them.

He hopped up on the edge of the sink, rolled the cigarette between his fingers and thought about blowing off the rest of the day. He was pretty sure no one would notice…Ray wasn’t allowed to drive him anymore, and the other drivers barely knew him. All he had to do was walk out the back doors, and he could go downtown, catch a movie, laugh at the hustlers…he watched gray clouds vomit snowflakes that splattered against the clear upper panes of the big windows--the bottoms being frosted for modesty. No doubt the sight of a bunch of brats peeing would wreak havoc on the folks in the opposite building. He wondered idly if they could see them and laughed to himself.

“Something funny?”

He jumped—he hadn’t heard the door open. Jeremy, one of those ghostly underfed looking Benson twins, the twats, came over to the sink, dropping his bag on the floor. He knew them from social functions he was forced to attend with Lionel. He knew this one was Jeremy because of the long bright red hair, the other one was short haired and blonde. At least he was pretty sure….

“Why aren’t you in class?” Jeremy asked by way of greeting and knelt to rummage around in his knapsack. He pulled out a sheet of paper and a roll of tape. Lex looked down at what he had.

“Out of order?”

The kid tucked an errant strand of hair behind his ear and smiled, taped the sign to the door. He shut it and turned a deadbolt set high on the doorframe.

“There. Privacy.”

Lex arched an eyebrow and lit another cigarette. “Privacy for what?” He was intrigued in spite of himself. He knew that the twins had a reputation for being…odd. The thought made him snicker.

“You’ll see.” Jeremy winked and took off his parka. He pulled out a little bag, set it on the edge of the sink, undid his tie and dropped it on top, and started to undo his shirt. He stopped. “I can change in the stall if you want.”

Lex’s swallowed hard around a knot in his suddenly dry throat, but he tried for nonchalance. “It doesn’t matter to me what you do.”

He felt uncomfortably warm for some reason. Jeremy just smiled and took his shirt off. He was wearing a pink wife-beater underneath and Lex found it hard to look away. He was really thin, Lex thought, scrawny…he had a small tattoo high on his shoulder, but Lex was afraid to look too closely or to ask.

Jeremy dropped his pants and shook out the wad of clothing he’d pulled from his bag and shimmied into a…a skirt? He dropped onto his coat, kicked off his shoes and lifted his legs, flashing a glimpse of bright purple underwear, something satiny and…Lex swallowed again—this was just too weird….

He rolled white socks up his legs, stood and slipped his feet into a pair of ridiculous thick-soled mary-janes. Lex gaped at the boy. Jeremy grinned and turned to the sink, opened the bag and began applying make up, lots and lots of eyeliner and lipstick and blush and Lex was open-mouthed and teetering on the edge between horror and total fascination. He didn’t even look like Jeremy, now some skinny little girl was grinning at him.

He rolled up his uniform and shoved everything into the bag.

“Why in the world…” Lex stopped, at a loss for words, and feeling too warm now. He dropped his collar and pulled his blazer open.

“Just because.” Jeremy shrugged, answering Lex’s unfinished question. “It’s so boring sometimes and this—this is just for fun.” Lex watched him coat his lips with gloss and Jeremy watched him watch. He came closer and laid a hand high on Lex’s thigh. “You won’t tell will you?”

“Oh…no…” Lex shook his head and breathed harder. He wanted to move his leg, but not away.

“You’re a good guy, even if you can’t speak in whole sentences. You should have a reward.”

Lex nodded, mesmerized by the sight of Jeremy with shiny pink lips…

“Come here,” he said, and pulled Lex close by his tie. Lex let himself be moved, closer and closer until his lips were touching Jeremy’s.

Sweet and warm. That was his first impression, cherry sweet and so warm, and soft and then his mouth opened a little and Jeremy swept his mouth with his tongue and that made him jump—it felt—good, really good. His tongue slid along Jeremy’s and he sighed. wow that feels good.

He sucked Lex’s tongue, brief little pulls that pumped electricity right into his groin, oh! He jumped again, and spread his legs and Jeremy leaned into him, deepened the kiss and rocked his hips against Lex’s growing erection. “Oh!” Lex gasped and tried to pull away but he wouldn’t let him.

He squeezed Lex, his fingers worked a rhythm against his dick, and he felt wetness leak into his underwear, cotton, white, and nowhere near as sexy as the purple shiny thing Jeremy was wearing and he wondered if they were getting as wet as his—another squeeze and he was groaning into Jeremy’s mouth.

“Let me see,” he whispered and Lex knew immediately what he meant. He started to growl hell no, and the hand in his crotch slid-squeezed-gripped him in a way that made his eyes roll back. “Okay, okay,” he stuttered, “just--” and Jeremy was already pulling his zipper down and reaching into his waistband.

“God, you feel like, like—like soft glass,” he laughed, nearly breathless, “So warm and—God!” He was pulling boxers and pants down in one go…Lex’s dick sprang out, slapped his belly and it sounded loud and…wet. He wanted to die and Jeremy snickered. “Have you ever done this before?” he asked

“Of course! Lots of times!”

Jeremy grinned. “With anyone other than your hand and imagination?”

“Fuck you.” he wilted slightly and Jeremy leaned over and licked him. Shit! He was hard as a rock again, twitching in Jeremy’s light grip. “Don’t, don’t …”

“Promise, I won’t hurt you.” He dragged his tongue around the head of his dick, squirming the pointed tip of his tongue briefly into the slit. “Much.” And he swallowed him down, right down until his glossy pink lips were nudging against him, leaving smears against his bare white skin.

His head flew back and smacked against the mirror and he lifted clear of the sink edge. Jeremy swallowed, bobbed his head once or twice and Lex heaved up again, trembling, thrust a time or two into his mouth and came with a loud, shaky moan.

Jeremy lifted his head, wiped at the lipstick smeared on his chin and licked the corners of his mouth. He grinned. “That was fast.”

Lex blushed dark red. “I...I…” he gave up, burning with embarrassment.

“It’s okay,” Jeremy chuckled softly. “I am awfully hot.” He grinned and looked so pleased it called an answering one from Lex. “But it’s more likely because it was your first time and all--trust me.” He leaned back and Lex could see there was a definite bulge lifting the front of the skirt. He knelt and rummaged about in his coat pocket and came up with lotion, and a condom.

“Guess what,” he said, “you’re going to learn something else new today. Lucky you.”

“Yeah.” Lex panted, his eyes kept going to the glossy ring of dark pink around his dick, it glittered, and he wondered if it still smelt like cherries. He grunted as his dick tried to lift again—somehow the lipstick smear was just so sexy and dirty and made him want to do it again…made him want to do it to Jeremy, but it looked like he had other ideas.

He was turned to the wall, and as Lex watched he slid the purple underwear to his thighs, he reached behind him and Lex almost fell off the sink—he pushed a lotion-slicked finger inside himself, slowly thrusting and twisting it and making little noises and Lex really thought he was going to die from watching. Oh my God, he thought oh that’s so wrong…I mean so hot, I mean…. He couldn’t tear his eyes away, Jeremy was leaning on the arm supporting him against the wall, and groaning as he inserted another finger and said, “Put that on.”

Lex stared at him. He croaked, “Put what on?”

“The rubber, you nit!’

“Oh! Oh...I can do that…um.” He held up the packet and ripped it open and prayed briefly he’d get it right, and snickered when he realized what he was praying for. He looked at Jeremy, who was bent at the waist and breathing heavily and he could see the swell of his balls and a flash of dick between his spread legs, the skirt was around his waist, the panties around his knees and Lex was hard and throbbing as if he hadn’t gotten blown a few minutes ago. He rolled the rubber down, it was slippery and the heat of his own fingers made him twitch. He prayed the thing was on right. He glanced at Jeremy who was smiling over his shoulder at him and he changed quickly to praying he didn’t come on the short walk over to him…. He gulped. “Okay.”

Jeremy smiled wider. “Okay, put it in.”

“Right. Put it in.” he could do that—he slipped and squirmed around and his dick flew under Jeremy, nudging him in the balls a time or two before he finally, actually—put it in. Jeremy yelped and groaned and Lex froze. “Oh God—are you--”

“Fuck yeah, I’m fine…just--”

Lex shuddered and pushed in, he groaned as the feeling of being inside him flooded his body from head to toe, better than a blowjob, better than his hand, better than…he couldn’t imagine better than what. He became aware of a liquid noise on the edge of his hearing and realized it was Jeremy, jerking himself off, pushing back on him, doing all the work while Lex held his hips and shook and groaned and moaned. He finally slammed into him, off rhythm and shaky, began to gasp, sharp short bursts as delicious fire rose from his toes to his dick. He was almost at the point of pain, desperate for release and just when he thought he couldn’t take it anymore, he broke, howled, came sobbing as Jeremy tightened around him, squeezed him, stuttered and came against the bathroom wall.

Lex dropped back off his toes and panted for breath. He’d never felt anything so intense. Jeremy was gone, Lex still stood facing the wall, shaking and panting. He was unable to think, let alone move. He felt a soft kiss on his cheek and a gentle pat, “You better clean up, Lex, I’m leaving. Don’t let anyone catch you with your pants down. Flush the rubber, dude.”

Lex was alone; he stumbled into the stall, and fixed himself. Shuddered as he touched his dick. Dark pink lipstick still circled the base. He wasn’t a virgin anymore. He stumbled a bit and fell heavily against the wall. He wasn’t a virgin.

He walked out of the bathroom and straight into the arms of the Principal and the school disciplinarian. Jeremy hung from his hand, his arm twisted uncomfortably behind his back, his face twisted in anger, chagrin, and mounting fear, and when he met Lex’s eyes, remorse. “I’m so sorry,” he mouthed.

The Principal looked at Lex in disgust. “This is intolerable behavior. I’m afraid we’ll have to call your fathers, Mr. Benson, Mr. Luthor.”

Lex looked at the man and managed to sneer. Afraid? What the fuck did he have to be afraid of--he wasn’t the one who was probably going to get the ass-whipping of his life, the son-of-a-bitch.

The driver dropped Lex off at the Tower and he went in the main doors, took the public elevator to Lionel’s office. There wasn’t any point in going to the penthouse; he’d just call him down to the office anyway. He wandered around the outer office a bit, annoying Lionel’s secretary, touching the spines of the completely unused books in the cases that lined one wall. He glanced over at her—she glared at him over the silver rims of her glasses and Lex smiled in spite of himself.

He sat, he stood, he fidgeted and sighed until he heard a snap and looked towards the sound. The secretary was brushing a splintered pencil into the waste can by her desk. He even felt some sympathy for her but he wasn’t sure if he should just go on into the inner office or wait until called. Nerves were making the wait as tension filled for him as for the secretary. He sat on the very edge of the couch and jogged his leg. He felt a ticklish bead of sweat run under his collar. He ran his finger underneath the suddenly too tight band of fabric, and loosened his tie. He could hear himself gulp in air and he was slightly itchy, still sticky from the lube….

He had no idea what to expect. It wasn’t as if Lionel really gave a crap what happened to him—he’d proved that--but—it was possible he’d be angry if he thought that he’d embarrassed the Luthor name or whatever.

He narrowed eyes and glared at the foyer that led into the inner office. What if he got …jealous….

He huffed and leaped off the couch. The waiting was driving him completely nuts, as it no doubt was supposed to.

He walked quietly, trying not to rise on tiptoes like he was ten again, past the secretary’s desk. She sighed gustily and ignored what he was doing.

He crossed the vast space of the ridiculously huge outer office and peered into the small foyer that led to the real office. The door to the inner office was open, just enough so that he could see a bit of the room--sunlight poured in through the wall to ceiling windows, illuminating a patch of pale lavender carpet, a slice of dark gray leather couch, and Lionel, the sun making a halo of his hair as he bent over the couch.

His fingertips were under a dark haired boy’s chin, tilting back his head. The boy’s eyes were closed, and he accepted a kiss from Lionel. Or Lionel was making him take a kiss…Lex felt his stomach roll.

He wore some sort of uniform, one that Lex didn’t recognize and he knew most of the schools in Metropolis, this one was weird, the jacket had a high collar and he wore shorts. Who the hell wore shorts anymore?

The boy’s hands were folded in his lap and when Lionel moved out of sight, he dropped his head, opened his eyes and they were staring at one another. His eyes were green and wide, for a moment they were all Lex saw. His breath caught in his throat. He heard a tiny gasp and realized it came from the boy. He was leaning forward, his lips parted and he whispered something Lex couldn’t hear but strained to with every bit of his being and then his father was closing the door, smiling, speaking, “Please go sit down, it won’t be too much longer. I’ll send someone for you when I’m ready. It might be wise to use this time to reflect on your actions today, don’t you think?”

It truly wasn’t much longer before Lionel called him back, the heavy drapes at the tall windows were drawn and the office was lit by artificial light.

Lionel wasn’t alone—the boy was gone but his personal barber and the man’s assistant were in the office now.

Lex sat on the couch, sliding without thinking into the spot the boy had been sitting and watched as his father was shaved. The barber lathered him, and put a keener edge on the razor.

“This is the only civilized way to get a shave, son. The straight edge affords a smoother, closer shave than…oh dear. Well, I suppose you needn’t worry about that, eh?” He chuckled and the barber carefully, slowly ran the blade over his throat, skillfully negotiating his Adam’s apple. Lex watched the path of the blade and smiled.

Lionel mirrored his smile, asked how his day had been. Reminded Lex that the principal had called, what an interesting conversation he’d had with him, smiled wider.

The barber trimmed his hair as he spoke, neatly, cleanly, little bits of hair drifted to the ground. He swept the drape from his shoulders and stepped back. Conversation stopped as they all watched the young assistant swiftly sweep up the hair, re-pack the implements, stow them on a cart and whisk it out of the office. The barber bowed and left the room. Lex blinked a moment or two. That had been…extremely efficient. A tad surreal, but efficient.

“Now,” Lionel said and stood. He settled his jacket on his lean frame. “Let’s deal with this shall we?”

Lex waited, fearing the worst.

Lionel waved his hand at him, indicating what he wanted. “Pants off, please.”

“What—what?”

“I’m sorry, was I not clear? Pants. Down. Now. Underwear also.” He began to look a little impatient and Lex unzipped and dropped his pants and boxers and tried not to wheeze. Lionel walked around and around him, and Lex suddenly, horribly, just knew that the lipstick was still there and he was afraid to look.

“Well, well, well,” Lionel shook his head and sighed. “What am I going to do with you?” He said in a tone one might use with a recalcitrant puppy.

Lionel unbuckled his belt, it made a serpentine hiss as it slipped against the fabric of his trousers and free of the loops. He held it a moment as if considering, and snapped it a few times in his hands. Lex winced, tried not to make a sound.

Lionel patted the arm of the couch and motioned Lex forward. “Here, grip the arm of the couch, bend over.”

“Oh no. I really don’t think I will…” He backed away from him, until his back was pressed against the wall. No, no, he was shaking his head, shaking his head, and then he was facing the wall. The belt whizzed through the air and looped around his throat, black stars filled his vision.

Lionel was against his back, the belt wrapped tight in one fist. “Fight back,” Lionel hissed. “Come on, stop me, fight back,” and Lex struggled to use what Ray taught him, but Lionel kept him off balance, lifted him off his feet. He laughed, bit him--hard. Lex felt as though his teeth were meeting in his neck. Shock made Lex go limp and Lionel pushed him harder into the wall. He was pinned between Lionel’s body and the paneling.

“Nothing’s free, remember that?” He pushed him into the wall again, slamming his head painfully, and jerked back on the belt. “I know what you think about, I know what you want…”

He was still shaking his head when Lionel pushed against him and he felt a stab of pain and cried out. Lionel’s hand was over his mouth in an instant, grinding his lips against his teeth.

“You’ll heal. You always heal fast.’

The pain was intense, transfixing and overwhelming. He couldn’t imagine this pain was right, it had been different for him and Jeremy, this---this just hurt and hurt and didn’t get better. His knees buckled and he put his hands out on the wall to keep from falling and he heard a grunt and wished he just wasn’t there and wished it hard enough to not be there.

Lex tried to refasten his clothing quickly, tried to stop his hands from shaking. His lips were pressed tight together. He shook, but it wasn’t fear or pain that shook him and that filled his eyes with tears.

Lionel swung his chair to face the draped windows. “Clean up and tell the housekeeper to help you pack.

Lex yanked his zipper back up, fumbled at his buttons with numb fingers. ”What? Why? Pack—where are we going?”

“You’re going. Someplace where you’ll learn control, I hope—for your sake.”

Lex’s fingers danced up and down his jacket, shakily plucking at his lapels until he was finally able to speak again. “What I did—it won’t hurt Robin, will it?” He swallowed hard as he tried to straighten his tie.

Lionel turned his chair back to him and smirked. “Robin? Robin—“ He laughed. “Is that what you’ve been doing all this time? Protecting Robin? The day he was fired he ceased to be of any interest to me.”

Lex paled. “But—but you said…he was never in any danger? All that I did, I did for no reason?”

Lionel rose from the chair in one smooth movement, he adjusted Lex’s tie, his fingers lingering over the silk, and smiled. “I think you know the real reason why you did it, don’t you?”. He pushed Lex gently out the door and before he shut it, he said. “Really, son, this will be the best for you. I’ve only ever wanted the best for you.”

Lex held himself up against the wall and shuddered. He hoped his replacement would fare better than he did.

 

Chapter Six

Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.
-Sigmund Freud

Seven years later….

“Do you understand how important this is to me? I’m right in thinking that you want this as much as I do?” Out of the corner of his eye Lionel could see the nod of assent.

“Good, good.” He let his hand rest briefly on the warm knee next to his before returning his attention to the road. “This is a step that puts me in position to get what I really want. You put me there. I won’t forget this if you succeed.” Unspoken of course was the promise of punishment if he failed. “Whatever happens, make sure that he thinks it’s his idea. Don’t be obvious. And make sure that he has an…enjoyable time.”

They drove on in silence a bit. The air was just beginning to warm, and flowing in the open window it brought with it the omnipresent scents of the city, the smell of the streets, of diesel and damp concrete, but teasing hints of spring, as well. Lionel felt unaccountably—pleased. Content, even. Promise in the air, Lionel thought. That’s what he was feeling…the promise of rebirth and growth and good fortune. Growth and good fortune was coming his way. He glanced at his passenger. And re-birth, certainly. He caught movement from the corner of his eye, fingertips scraping over and over the fabric covering the legs next to his. He frowned a little. It was out of character for him to fidget like that, particularly before an assignment. He’d checked on this one, it should be smooth sailing, even less trouble than usual. He wondered if the boy needed time off, time to…play. The fingers danced and jumped on his thigh and Lionel had to restrain a desire to crush them still. Instead he rubbed his thumb over the smooth skin on the back of the hand, worked his thumb under until he was stroking his wrist. “Don’t be nervous. You look good.”

“I’m not nervous.”

Lionel’s hand dropped onto the boy’s thigh when he moved his hand. He heard the slide of fabric on leather; the movement caused Lionel’s hand to come to rest high inside the thigh. He glanced over and met clear piercing eyes and a smirk.

Lionel frowned at him. “Don’t presume to know my mind.”

“Oh no sir, never,sir.” The response was mild, soft and his face was clear of any expression, eyes wide and innocent.

They pulled to the curb in front of an exclusive high rise, and Lionel asked him again if he knew exactly what to do, how to work him. He got a smile in response and with a liquid move that still had the power to draw and hold Lionel’s eyes; he slid out of the car. He was moving up the stairs with a grace that turned heads and Lionel felt a sharp claw of jealousy hook into his chest before dismissing it. This is what he made him for. He shook off the feeling. Business was business.

“Lex,” he called and obediently as always, he swung about to face Lionel. He looked almost delicate in the gray evening light. His face was a smooth pale oval that seemed to float above the dark smudge of the charcoal suit and black wool coat he wore. The last rays of the setting sun caught and illuminated the square of purple silk folded in the breast pocket of the dark gray suit coat.

“What is it, Dad?” he called back and laughed. “Surely you’re not worried about your little boy?”

Lionel said, “I’ll meet you here in two hours. Unless you’d rather have me send a car for you?”

Lex smiled smoothly. “Why don’t you do that, Dad? I’ll have your contracts ready and waiting for you tonight.” He winked, whirled around and disappeared into the dark lobby.

Clark looked about him in wonder. He’d been out of the room before, many times, and in the car a few times but this…here were the fighters, this is where they lived. They looked frightening. It was different than working with them one on one in the little gym in the apartment. There were no windows in this place; it was lit with the same white light that lit his room day and night. And the people, so many of them, and it was so loud, his ears were ringing with the sound of their voices and the sound of the machines they worked with. He could hear flesh hitting flesh and grunts of exertion and pain, smelled sweat and leather and metal and blood…he shivered under the sensory assault and tried to pull back, but his handlers pushed him into the room.

“Stop fucking around before I hit you,” the one named Max said. “The Boss wants you to work out—so work out.” He kicked Clark in the back of the leg, and he stumbled and fell into the sparring area.

“Watch out, Boss isn’t going to want his pet bruised unless he says so.”

“How the fuck is he gonna tell who bruised him how?”

Clark was quaking, terrified. The pain was making it difficult for him to focus. It was especially sharp today, he had extra bracelets on. Lionel explained that he needed to be more human in order to compete fairly.

A trainer finally took pity on him and took him in hand, and slowly Clark learned what was expected of him. As much as he hated it, he began to learn to fight.

The other fighters took him for older than he was and showed him no favor, were harder on him because it was rumored that he was Lionel’s favorite. Rumors ran like wildfire through the fighter’s commune: Clark was the result of some sort of breeding project, he was altered surgically to be stronger than normal, he was Lionel’s son, he was Lionel’s lover, he was a clone of someone famous…he was an object of scrutiny and jealously for quite a few of them.

His routine had begun to change in the past few months. Lionel came rarely now, the occasions when he did come were always wonderful. He never met him in the cage now. His handlers would bring him clothes and special soap and shampoo. He’d smell so good after his shower, and then he’d sit in the living area of the room and there would be delicious things to eat and drink. Sometimes candles, candles everywhere, he loved the flickering gold light. It soothed his eyes, not to be in the harsh white light that normally burned day and night.

Lionel would talk to him about his business, some time he’d talk about someone he called Lex, things he really didn’t understand, but he listened and tried to look knowledgeable, nodding in what he hoped were the right places. More often than not, Lionel laughed and he knew that was good. He was allowed large amounts of dinner wine. The wine was so good; and enough of it made his aching bones feel somewhat better, almost like wearing just the belly chain and not the collar.

The times Lionel came to visit were very good, yes. After dinner, he’d lay down with him and he would do things to him. That was fine. It stopped hurting long ago, and sometimes it made him feel like he had bubbles in his head, his belly. When Lionel used to have a good good smell it was better. He was sad that he no longer smelled that way.

Clark wandered around and around the edges of his cell, walking in a square and then crossing the floor to walk the other side, back and forth, back and forth. It kept his legs from cramping when he walked, and he thought better when he moved. Sometimes he’d do it for hours, or until Ernie or Max came in and yelled at him to lie down.

He bent and picked up a little scrap of fabric that once was a blanket. Where it came from he didn’t remember, but it made him feel comfortable to hold it. He sat on the end of his cot and rubbed the fabric between his fingers and remembered…

His thoughts went back to a day, long ago, in Lionel’s office, sitting in the wonderful sun and feeling as good as he ever did and suddenly the smell that teased him and soothed him flooded his nose, so strong for a moment, that it rendered him senseless, ecstasy so intense it was almost worse than the pain--just for a moment….

When he opened his eyes there he was, more beautiful than anyone he’d ever seen before. And something about him had been familiar. He knew this stranger. Somehow they had a connection; he’d felt it in his bones.

Right after Lionel had sent him away without a word. All the way down in Lionel’s private elevator, as he’d changed to indoor clothes and was locked into his cage, the beautiful stranger was in his mind.

Clark flopped back onto the cot and watched the scenes in his mind unreel again. He rubbed the little piece of fabric over and over his cheek.

Why did the stranger smell like Lionel? Did he belong to Lionel too? Maybe there was a room in this place that was like his, where the stranger lived. Maybe he went to the ring too, and worked out, and learned to fight. Did he have days in the sun too? Clark liked to fill empty time by imagining it was so, that one day, a door would open and he’d be there, smiling at him.

Clark got up again and continued his pacing. But no—he was probably like Max and Ernie. He most likely slept in a bed like they did, and had a room with a TV in it, and a chair and had a real bathroom. He probably came and went as he pleased. He didn’t belong to anyone.

Clark looked at the bucket in the corner of his cage. He’d rather have the toilet too. He wandered another few steps. He’d rather have the bed big enough to fit him. He’d rather have the chair, and the rug, he’d…tears ran down his face and he wasn’t sure why. He wanted to be held. He knew that sometimes it was just a touch of arms and it made you feel better. He imagined being held by that stranger and he liked the thought. Being held, being warm for a little and surrounded by that good smell.

The thought made him gasp and he felt himself growing bigger. He pressed his hand over himself and felt his penis grow, move against his palm. His face grew warmer and he breathed a little harder, and closed his eyes—thought about the beautiful stranger. He leaned against the cold metal bars, felt the bite of the belly chain as it shifted against his skin. He heard footsteps outside the cage, but didn’t stop. It wasn’t a new sound…he pulled his pants down, and gathered the moisture flowing from his penis into his hand, and began stroking from root to tip, slipping the skin back, twisting his hand at the top and pressing his palm over the tip, down, up again. The boy in his mind smiled at him and helped him. He laid his hand over Clark’s and stroked with him. Clark smiled and his hips moved, thrusting himself in and out of his fist. Moisture ran freely over his hands, his fingers and the wet sound his fist made as it flew over his penis made the heat rise faster and faster in his blood. It was never like this when Lionel did it. Never with anyone else. He frowned and felt a lessening of the heat and forced his thoughts back to smooth, clean skin, the sky colored eyes and bright and warm and…he felt his thighs tighten, heard from far away, “yeah, that’s so hot…”

Orgasm bowed his back and made his hips snap in and out of his wet hand, and come filled his free hand, he knew he was being watched and hardly had the means to care. His whole life had been lived in an iron barred cage, open to everything.

It was Max at the bars, his lips twisted into a weird snarl of a smile.

“You really are a slut aren’t you?” He looked at Clark, his eyes sliding all over his skin, and he opened his mouth to say something—he looked to the cameras and walked away.

Clark unrolled a few sheets of tissue from the roll on the floor next to the bucket and sighed as he wiped his hand, and tossed the crumpled wet mass into the bucket.

Lionel sent for him the next morning and Clark was excited. This meant an outing, an escape. Max and Ernie took him to the shower. Ernie unbuckled the collar as Max stood by with the club his handlers used. He walked into the shower, held out his arms and Ernie sprayed him down. Ernie tossed him a bottle of some sort of soap, too and ordered him to wash.

Clark enjoyed the fresh scent of the wash and scrubbed every bit of himself thoroughly, in no time he was clean from head to toe, the way Lionel had instructed him always to do for him.

Ernie and Max were red-faced by the time he was done, and Ernie shoved a towel at him. “Dry yourself.” Clark applied himself to the task, blocking out their hot eyes on him.

Car rides were dizzying as well as exciting for him. With the stone filled bracelets he was made to wear in addition to the collar, he was even weaker, disoriented. His sense of direction was thrown off and not knowing precisely where he was made him feel off balance and uneasy.

In a few minutes he was in a parking garage under a building. He could feel that they were deep in under ground.

Across the brightly lit area was a guarded doorway, and separate parking area for expensive private cars. Lionel stood by the door with his entourage. He looked very handsome and Clark’s heart beat faster when he saw him. Lionel gestured for him to come forward, and Max took the bracelets from his wrists. He trotted over to where Lionel stood and waited. Lionel reached up and squeezed the back of his neck, pulled him close until their foreheads touched.

“Clark, today is going to be wonderful for you. You’re going to learn something new today,” he said and swung open the door behind him.

Equal parts dread and curiosity seized him. He was never certain what would happen when Lionel said that….

They rode the elevator down a flight and Lionel took Max and Clark into a small dark room that smelled like sweat, blood, and semen—Clark looked to Lionel for his reaction but he didn’t seem to notice the odor. Max didn’t either, so Clark assumed he was the only one that could smell it. That happened to him sometimes. He shrugged and waited for Lionel to tell him what to do.

Lionel wrapped his arms around him and he closed his eyes, leaned on his shoulder and relaxed into his warmth.

“Clark—do you want to make me happy? Clark nodded but Lionel was already speaking. “Tonight, you will have to fight, for me. Do you remember what to do?”

Clark nodded, he remembered.

“There are going to be people, more people than you’ve ever seen before crowded into one space. It will be hot, and loud, very noisy. Are you ready for that?”

Clark nodded, a little doubtful, and Lionel went on.

“There will be an arena. You understand? The man you have to fight will be waiting for you and he’ll try to hurt you, badly. You can’t let him do that, all right? Don’t let anything else distract you. You go into that pit and stop that man.”

Clark said slowly, “Yes…I’ll stop him…”

“If you don’t stop him, my enemies will kill me.”

Clark jerked his head up, alarm widening his eyes. “Kill you?’

Lionel nodded gravely in return and put his hands on Clark’s face.

Clark startled. That good smell, it was back, so faint, but…he grabbed at Lionel’s hands and whimpered.

“Go—do what I tell you and everything will be fine. Understand?” Clark told him that he did. Lionel reached out and unbuttoned his shirt. “Take your shoes off, and your socks. We can safely leave them in this room, it belongs to me,” he said when Clark hesitated. He did what Lionel told him to do and stood waiting, wearing nothing but his jeans, his waist chain and the collar. Lionel nodded approval and took him by the arm.

Clark was led through a set of double doors—they swung open from the cool quiet dark onto a roar of sound and an over powering explosion of color. Everything was happening at once, too much to comprehend. His eyes watered from the harsh lights and jittering, pulsating jumble of colors. His ears suddenly opened to every individual sound in the building, they rang and buzzed and even the green stone didn’t help to dull the crushing assault of noise, every single voice was distinct and demanding his attention, every crinkle of paper, rustle of fabric, the click of ice cubes in dozens and dozens of glasses, every gasp and moan and shriek and slick slide of skin against skin, every bone breaking, every splash of blood on concrete crashed into his head at once with no filter, no end….

He staggered and dropped to his knees, keening, trying to dig into the back of his mind, to be alone, quiet….

Lionel grabbed his chin and yanked his head up. “Look at me, Clark. Pay attention just to me. Concentrate!” he shouted and Clark, desperate for an end to the torture, focused on Lionel’s mouth, on his eyes. He concentrated with every fiber of his being to Lionel’s words, until the noise once again was a babble of undifferentiated sound

“Okay, okay, now…” Clark panted, inhaled loudly and risked licking Lionel’s fingers. He grinned and took Clark’s hand, helped pull him to his feet. Clark shook himself like a dog and waited for orders.

Lionel pulled him through a narrow walkway lined with screaming people, even the men tightly wedged around Lionel couldn’t stop all the hands from touching Clark, scraping at him, yanking at his hair. He rocked from side to side and rising fear made him jerk away from the hands, the smells--

Lionel stopped abruptly and Clark narrowly avoided running into him. “Look.”

Clark looked—they were standing at the edge of a deep square cut out of the ground. There was a man barely dressed in leather on the floor of the square. He was chained to the wall, and he lunged mindlessly on the chain. Clark smelled fresh blood; he saw blood on the man’s hands, sprayed across his chest. He was standing in blood. “That man belongs to the people who want to hurt me. I want you to stop him, okay?”

Clark bit his lip. He was frightened. This was different than sparring with Lionel’s men. He didn’t know if he could do it—the man in the pit was horribly frightening and nothing like the fighters that Lionel owned.

Lionel touched his belly and Clark jerked his attention back to him. He heard a metallic click and a bit of the queasy feeling, the constant thumping behind his eyes, was gone. He sighed in relief—he felt better, he had more control over his vision, his hearing didn’t overwhelm him now. He was able to ignore most of the noise. He leaned closer to Lionel and touched his open mouth to his cheek, smiled when his beard tickled him.

Lionel said, “Face the pit Clark.” Clark turned. “Bend your neck.” He did. Lionel whispered, hot and wet in his ear, “Kill him!” and snatched the collar off.

For the first time ever that he could remember, Clark was free of the stone.

Free.

A feeling like a tidal wave of hot pulsing power forced its way through his veins, filled him, burning like white light through him. It ignited his blood, cleared his mind, pulsated in every part of him. The world sang all around him, crystal clear, bright, hard, and he was alive. Every part of him was alive.

He flew from the edge of the pit and felt the concrete crumble under his feet at the impact. The moment the other man’s chain was slipped, he flew at Clark, howling like an animal. Clark smashed a fist into his chest and for a instant he was somewhere else—he held a small dead shape in his hand and he had a fleeting moment in which he felt what he’d done was horribly, horribly wrong--and then it was gone under a wave of euphoria, excitement, triumph as he tore through the man’s chest--skin ripped with a noise like cotton shredding, heat flowed up his arm, and ribs broke beneath his fingers like glass.

The man dropped, sliding off his arm to collapse in a loose liquid heap on the floor and the screams of the crowd flowed over him like fingers on his skin. Clark inhaled, drew in a deep, deep breath and luxuriated in being able to do so—the lights were like stars, the blood smelled dark and rich and he felt good, so good… then he heard his name called and looked up, the warm wet thing in his hand dropping to the concrete.

Lionel called him to the edge of the pit. He grinned at him. He felt…incredible. He felt like nothing could hurt him, nothing in the world…Lionel called again and he leaped up to the edge of the pit and the crowd screamed again.

“Lionel.” It came from his throat deep and rough; he hardly recognized the sound of his own voice. He pushed through the crowd around him and grabbed his throat. Lionel’s eyes widened for a moment and the men around him yelled and then Clark kissed him roughly, biting as much as he kissed him, sucking on his tongue, forcing his head back and licking around his mouth and groaning and then—

“Clark, stop, I have to put the collar back on, okay?”

Clark drew back abruptly, he was hard, aching and needing release. He was dizzy, and he caught the faint echo of pain--Lionel held the collar up.

“Okay,” he sobbed, and bent his head. He felt himself folding up; Lionel snapped the collar on and Clark groaned as the pain bloomed anew. He put the chain around his waist and stroked his hair. “Clark, every time you fight, it will be like that.”

Clark raised his eyes to him. “Really?”

“Yes. Did you like it?”

“Yeeees,” he said. “It was…good.”

Lionel smiled. “You can have that every time you’re here. I’m pleased. You performed beyond my expectations.”

Clark sighed. “Good. I’m happy. He leaned his head on Lionel’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you.”

Max and Ernie took him back to the room, and told him he had to shower before bed. Clark was glad, he was sticky with blood and sweat, and with the collar and chain working on him anew, sweat ran down his body like water. He mopped his face over and over with the shirt he’d reclaimed from the room.

Max took him to the shower and Ernie stood by with the glowing green baton as Max unlocked the collar. Clark touched his throat. He’d never thought about not having it touch his skin before and now…he trailed his fingers over and over around the skin of his throat.

He felt a nudge in his back.

“Stop dreaming and get the fuck in the shower, will ya?”

The showerheads blasted him from all angles and sluiced the blood and dirt and sweat away. He felt the men’s eyes crawling over him and knew that he wasn’t going to be spared tonight. He turned to them and a ghost of the feeling he had in the pits ignited in his chest—he didn’t mind, he thought maybe he might want to do that, tonight.

The shower tiles squeaked under his knees and under his palms, water making them slick enough for him to slide with each impact. His jaw ached and jagged bolts ripped up his spine, into his gut.

Ernie pushed into him, pulling his buttocks apart and groaning, telling Max what it looked like to have his cock in the kid’s ass, so tight, so fucking hot, like fucking a glove, shit, he’s sucking it in, you gotta fuck him…Max moaned and pumped his hips harder driving his penis deeper into Clark’s throat, and Clark concentrated on quelling his gag reflex, let his jaw relax and breathed hard through his nose. He felt his own penis lengthen, harden. It bobbed under his belly and the bead at the end of the chain struck the tip from time to time and made him groan—Max went crazy when he did.

Ernie gasped and he was coming, jerked Clark back on him hard, he could feel the penis inside him lift, throb. Heat filled him and Max grabbed handfuls of his hair and pulled him forward, thrusting hard and flooding Clark’s mouth. He choked and tried to swallow all his semen and Max ground his face down into the coarse hairs at the base of his penis before stepping away, Ernie pulled free of Clark at the same time.

“Where the fuck are you?” The intercom burst into life, startling Clark and the men. “I’m waiting for you.”

“Damn!” Ernie pushed the button and spoke back. “We’re in here. In the shower. Sir”

Yeah. I’ve been watching you shower. Let the kid clean up and get out here.”

“Uh…I’ve still got the collar to…”

“What? Collar, so what?” The voice was impatient, distracted…Max and Ernie looked at each other.

“I’ll explain.” Ernie said. “I’m on my way now.”

Ernie tossed the collar to Max and hissed “Scrub ‘em down fast! I’ll go talk to him.”

Clark was thankful to shower again, however quickly. The feeling of euphoria from the evening had swiftly worn off under the onslaught of the handlers. He wanted nothing more than to get back in his cage and sleep.

 

Chapter Seven

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.

--Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

“Dad, Dad!—Don’t put me on hold again—damn it! God damn it!” Lex yanked at the tie around his throat, the damn thing refused to sit right. He threaded it through the collar again, and retied it, staring at himself in the mirror. His lips were curved in a snarl and he struggled to compose himself. Talking to his father in the grip of a tantrum was not going to win him points. He ran his fingers over the tie, smoothed the bit of purple silk in place.

“Lex.”

Finally. “I’ve been on hold way past the point of any psychological effect, Dad. I’m not intimidated, I’m not angry. I am slightly annoyed—was that what you were going for?” His voice tone of voice was mildly sarcastic and lightly amused.

His father’s rich chuckle vibrated in the headpiece and Lex grimaced. He walked about the unfamiliar office, looking at the titles on the bookshelf, pulling back the long gray drapes at the floor to ceiling windows.

He got to the point of his call. “Why am I dropping one of these boys off? Isn’t that a job for their handlers? And this one--a cage, Dad--isn’t that a bit extreme, even for you? Nice office by the way. Spend a lot of time here, do you?” Lex took in the fully stocked bar and fridge in one corner, the plasma TV on one wall…A long deep leather sofa that looked smooth and soft as a glove faced away from the bank of draped windows.

“I did, son. Lately, other, more important aspects of the business, keep me away. That boy in there is special. He needs special treatment. Which is why you’re taking my place.”

“What? I don’t have time to baby-sit some barely literate fighter. He’s your toy, not mine. I’m afraid my taste is a wee bit more conventional than yours—I don’t keep my toys in a cage.”

“You’re in charge of him now. All you have to do is take care of him. Take him to the arena. I’m putting you in charge of all of that business. I want you booking the fights, collecting the take--and make contacts, son. There are always opportunities to conduct business. Trust me Lex, you’ll enjoy the Arena, there’s a lot there to suit a man of your… tastes.”

Fuck you. “Be that as it may. Dad, I have a lot on my plate now. I’m working with Harmon to finalize the deal you made me a part of and we’re set to fly out to Tokyo at the end of the week. I’ve been working hard on that. We need that market--”

“And that’s all been handled, with an acceptable replacement for you--my self. The work you did was more than adequate, but I want Clark to be your primary concern now.”

“Why?” Lex felt his blood pounding in his temples. “I worked hard on that deal. I did everything you told me to, everything I thought would make it come together. You promised me I’d only be involved in the legit business, you promised me a year in Japan…”

“Legit business?” Lionel chuckled again. “It’s all one business, Lex. Like it or not, it’s all LuthorCorp. Besides, one might think you didn’t enjoy being close to me. You’ll like living in the Tower again. Your things will be sent to you.”

“But—but…” Lex stopped and took a deep breath and composed himself. “All right Dad,” he responded calmly. “I’ll do the job to the best of my abilities.”

“That’s all I ever ask.”

Lex listened to silence for a moment before ripping the headset off and throwing it. He kicked the desk chair and sent it flying into the wall, threw a glass somewhere into the wall, and was cursing violently when the door creaked open.

“Ahh, I knocked. A lot.”

“Come the fuck in then,” Lex snarled. He turned away to face the windows and waited a beat to pull himself together.

“I—unh—I’m Ernie, the other guy is Max. We handle the…it…umm. Guy in the cage.” Ernie fidgeted under Lex’s glare.

Lex took in the doughy face and thick hands, the sloppy shirt and scuffed shoes. “Um. Well, Ernie, Mr. Luthor has decided it’s time for a change. I’m in charge here. I’ll be here full time. Get that guy dressed, Mr. Luthor wants a farewell party. “ He stopped and pulled a cigarette case out of his jacket pocket, selected one and made a show of lighting it. “I’d make sure he was clean…everywhere…if I were you.” He blew a stream of smoke into the air as Ernie scrambled for the door.

Clark waited on the couch in the living room for the men to bring him to the elevator. He was happy. He was going to see Lionel, he might be in the big soft bed, he loved that bed. Lots of room to stretch, and sometimes Lionel let him watch the TV in the room. He enjoyed watching science programs, and what Lionel called classic movies.

He heard Ernie talking to Max, and stretched again. He’d had a third shower, and was clean as possible. He smiled to himself. He smelled like flowers now. He sniffed deeply at his palm. Nice. He heard Ernie’s voice, and the unfamiliar one that had come over the intercom, looked up--and Clark’s entire world blew into pieces.

The smell…the smell, the look, the boy. The boy in the doorway in Lionel’s office. His chest hurt, his heart beat so hard, and the smell made him raise up from the couch, his eye were blurred with tears.

Finally. He was here.

He rubbed his eyes clear and stared at the boy. He was so tall now, not so terribly thin as he’d been then, but his eyes were still the color of winter sky. He still smelled so very good. Clark waited for him to recognize him.

“Okay, okay, come on, enough staring. That’s the new boss. That’s all you need to know.”

New Boss, Clark thought. Did that mean Lionel was leaving again? More of Max and Ernie? He felt cold inside. That’s why Lionel wanted him. He was leaving. Which meant dinner, the bed and back to the cage. No sleeping, no TV, just more of--that—and he looked at Max with as much anger as he dared.

The new Boss was walking away as if he had no idea who Clark was and with a sinking heart Clark knew he didn’t know. He didn’t remember.

Stupid really. Why should he? He was someone more important than Clark was –why would he worry about a nothing…dog?

The elevator was quiet. The sound of breathing was deafening in the small pace. Clark kept stroking the wood paneling at his back because he wanted so desperately to stroke the skin so close to him, separated from him by mere inches and a little silk. His fingers crept slowly closer, and he touched the little bit of bare wrist he could reach.

smack “Stop that, for God’s sake, that’s just…creepy.” He stared at Clark, his eyes dark with annoyance and Clark wilted a little. If he could just tell him—talk to him. But every time he tried to open his mouth, he was told to be quiet.

The elevator eased smoothly to a stop, and Clark walked out, with Ernie and Max on either side of him and the boy stayed in the elevator, smoking another one of those awful cigarettes. Clark frowned unconsciously. It masked his smell. He didn’t like it…Clark blushed and looked down. He had no right to like or dislike anything the men did. It was their prerogative to do what they wanted and he had no say. He sighed slightly and cast another glance under his lashes towards the slim figure in the car. Just before the doors closed again, he thought he saw the boy looking at him.

Lex ground the butt into the carpet of the elevator and cursed, low and monotonous under his breath. Whatever motivated Lionel to turn that kid into some kind of toy, he’d done a thorough job of it. The kid was—disturbing. There was something wrong with him; something had been cut out of him. Lex shivered. The kid was like the ultimate expression of Lionel’s need to control. Had he ever been normal, he wondered?

The elevator sighed to a stop and Lex got out at his new home. So his cage was bigger, better appointed. So what? He poured a little club soda in a glass and sat at his new desk. He opened the drawers. Empty. He stood and went to the bank of closets at one wall. Empty. The bathroom was the same, shelves sparkling and empty. Ready for him to move in.

He wandered around the apartment, sipping at his drink. The cage room was featureless; obviously retrofitted into the apartment. Windowless, pitch-black—or would be if it weren’t for the ceiling lights blazing away. He wrinkled his nose at a faint odor, piss, shit…there was a bucket in the corner of the cage. God. What the fuck was the old man doing here? He broke out in goose bumps as hair he didn’t have tried to raise. God—that bucket was going. He couldn’t have that—stink—in here, not if he had to live here.

He walked into the living area, small, simple but comfortable, made of the space left over by the construction of the cage room. A small kitchen, a large shower, a ridiculously large shower—he realized this was the kid’s shower room, where Ernie and whatever the other one’s name had been entertaining themselves. His lip curled. He’d have to do something about that.

There were three very small bedrooms, no doubt for the handlers, and a large bedroom-sitting room with a very civilized bathroom at the far end of the apartment. His now, he guessed. The closets and storage in that room were empty also. Lex had the feeling it was rarely occupied. It had a smell of-dust and disuse about it.

He went back to the office and considered calling Lionel, asking just when his stuff was supposed to arrive, when a knock at the door broke into his thoughts. He opened the door to a personal shopper from one of Metropolis’ most exclusive mens clothing store. The man was burdened with an armful of clothing.

“Mr. Luthor sent measurements and some color and material choices--we selected several items we thought you might find to your liking. We included robes and pajamas, underclothing also to Mr. Luthor’s specifications for you. If Mr. Luthor would like, you can model them and we’ll take away whatever isn’t suitable.” His voice was so carefully neutral, it practically screamed insinuation.

Lex stared at the little man and said slowly and clearly, “Mr. Luthor is my father.”

“Oh!” The little man actually looked then. “Oh my yes! Of course! Pardon me. I didn’t mean to…I’ll just go now, um.”

“That might be best,” Lex said, a little smirk bowing his lips. He eyed the pile of clothing and grimaced. Would he have to model, he wondered? He fingered the heavy silk sleep pants and thought about a shower with longing. The phone rang and he went to answer it.

“Hello—Dad. Yes, I got the delivery, thank you. I look forward to getting my own wardrobe tomorrow, but thanks. I need a change. Listen, these two you have in here watching that—boy. I want them fired or whatever. I don’t want them back in here. Fine thanks. Do I have final say on firing and hiring? Good. I’ll come get the kid—now? All right. On my way.” He hung up and lit a cigarette quickly, exhaling noisily as he thought. Fuck, I just stuck myself with that kid.

Lex interviewed a few men from inside the fight business, and selected a man to be the new handler, with a thought to finding someone outside of the business for the other handler. He was pleased to find that the kid’s fights were infrequent, which meant besides making sure he had the basic necessities he didn’t have to interact with him. That suited Lex fine.

He was surprised to find that he did enjoy the fights, or rather the drama surrounding the fights. The crowds were the best entertainment. He marveled at how badly people behaved when they knew there’d be no repercussions. It was instructive, to say the least. He felt much less guilt--guilt probably being too strong a word—for being a part of it, when other people around him were misbehaving so badly.

Typically, his world narrowed to what was expected of him. He devoted himself to trying to win Lionel’s approval. He woke, he showered, he ate, and when he wasn’t handling Lionel’s business he gave whatever time he had left over to handling his own.

He avoided the creepy kid in the cage as much as possible.

“Mr. Luthor—Lex, I’m sorry—Clark looks ill.”

Lex was deep in thought, and it took him a moment for Philip’s words to sink in. He dragged his attention away from the laptop. “Who? Clark?”

“The…young man in the…” He gestured towards the cage room. “He looks ill.”

“Well, call in a doctor then,” Lex said and looked at the man. “You could have called a doctor in to see him, and sent me a memo, instead of wasting my time this way.”

Philip winced slightly, but pressed on. “I think it’s, well, mental.”

Philip didn’t move, so Lex finally snapped the laptop shut. “What exactly is it that you’d like me to do?”

He stood silently before the desk, with his hands crossed behind his back. It reminded Lex unpleasantly of Ray, whom he hadn’t thought of in years. Fuck.

Lex stood, “well, let’s go take a look.”

The kid was lying on his side almost under the cot, a piece of cloth twisted in a fist.

“Why’s he on the floor?”

Philip turned to look at him, a very careful expression of distaste on his face. “The cot is too short for him. He has to roll in a ball to lie on it. His knees hang over the edge when he does.”

Lex looked at the tall figure on the floor, plainly too long to sleep with any comfort on that cot. He noticed the bucket. “Oh. I meant to…”

The man leveled a blank stare at him. “He asked me if he could see the sun.”

There was no inflection in his voice and still Lex felt horribly guilty. He’d meant to check on the kid, he really had, but there was so much work to do, and he had to make sure everything was perfect and the business running just the way it would if Dad were handling it…”Clean up this mess. Get rid of that bucket. See if a bed will fit in here.”’

“But—all right. Sir.”

Lex wheeled around, but the expression on Philip’s face was as empty as the tone of his voice. Nothing at all was revealed in the steady look. “Bring him in the office.”

A tremor ran through the kid’s body as he spoke. ”Clark, that’s his name?”

“Yes, sir. He’ll be ready in a minute.” Philip looked down and his face and voice warmed a fraction. “Right, Clark?”

The kid nodded but didn’t move more than that.

“Well.” Lex said, “Well.” And turned to leave.

 

Less than an hour passed, Lex sat on the sofa and waited. The heavy gray drapes behind him were wide open, and sunlight flooded the office. There was a tap at the door and he called “come in.”

The kid walked in the door first, his eyes focused over Lex’s head. He smiled, and it was a wide happy smile, free and open and it made you want to smile right along with him, Lex thought. His eyes were so—the color of of sunlit oceans. They dropped, black lashes lay on his cheeks and then he raised them, and Lex felt like he’d touched a live wire.

He leaped to his feet and hissed, “It’s you--” Rage swept him. “You’re the one--”

Lex towered over him, hand raised. “It’s your fault—all this—your fault!” and Clark fell back as if he’d been struck.

The man pushed Lex back. “Hey—I was hired to protect him as well as you. Sir.”

Lex struggled not to punch the impertinent son of a bitch in his face. He pulled himself together and stepped around the cowering heap on the floor. “I’m going out. Have him back in that cage before I come back. He has an hour of sun,” he sneered.

 

Clark lay with his head pressed to the floor, and Phillip waited a few steps away until he got up again.

“You okay?” He went on at Clark’s nod. “You didn’t do anything wrong. He’s an

asshole—“

Clark gasped, “Please don’t say that.”

Philip stared at him and shook his head. “Poor idiot. Come on Clark, let’s get you back in the fucking cage.”

Clark trudged behind Philip and waited patiently as he unlocked the cage and locked him inside.

“Great, he wants the bucket out, so why won’t he let me keep the cage open—call me if you need a bathroom break, kid. Try not to do it at the ass crack of dawn, okay?”

Clark watched Philip walk away and sighed. He wasn’t anything like anyone who’d been a handler before. He didn’t want anything from Clark and Clark wasn’t sure what to think about it. Ever since he could remember, the handlers wanted something. Long before he’d out grown the cot, long before Bear was worn smooth, they’d wanted something—that thing-- from him. And Philip didn’t.

Clark sighed, his breath caught in his throat. Neither did Lex. It hadn’t taken him long to figure out this was the Lex that Lionel talked about, this was his son, his favorite. The one he really loved, for whom Clark was just a pale substitute.

Lex hated him! Lex hated him…because…why? Clark’s breath hitched again, and he bit his lip hard. He did something. Lex had said it was his fault, something was his fault. He sobbed again, and shoved the ragged little square of blanket in his mouth. His shoulders shook and his eyes were hot, the tears made his cheeks burn and itch.

Philip came to the door of the cage. “Clark?”

Clark threw himself away from the door and sat with his back to him, pretended that he had some privacy. He heard the lock click open, and footsteps and then a warm hand fell on his shoulder.

“It’s okay, really.” The hand patted him; the blanket from the cot was tucked around him.

“I’m going to see what I can do, Clark. Try to sleep”

Philip was gone, and Clark wrapped the blanket around his face to block out the light.

 

Another day, another trip to the pit, but this time was different, this time it was with Lex.

Clark was on edge, crowded against Lex. Touching him, always—touching him. No matter how he tried to move away, Clark was right there, almost panting in excitement. He practically jittered out of his skin, shifting from foot to foot until Lex grabbed the collar and yanked his head down.

“Listen to me,” he snapped and waited until Clark’s eyes were pinned on his. Clark pushed closer, as close as Lex’s grip would allow. “Don’t kill this man. Right away,” he snarled between gritted teeth. “Make it last. Lionel says so. Understand?”

Clark’s head jerked back and he searched the crowds. “Lionel?”

“He’s not here, I spoke to him on the phone, okay? He wants you to use…skill… with this one.”

Clark swallowed. “With the collar…like in the gym….”

“No,” Lex said. “Lionel promised you no collar here, no chain, no bracelets.” Lex bent his neck. He unlocked the collar and the change in Clark was sudden, dramatic. His skin pinked, he seemed taller, broader. His cheeks and lips flushed red, and power poured off of him.

Clark looked down into his eyes and smiled, slow and full of heat. He hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his jeans, and slid them down until a thin edge of black hair underscored the line of the gleaming chain circling his hips. “You forgot this,” he said and the rough edge to his voice called to that part of Lex that liked flying high without a net. It made him even more angry.

When Lex tried to release the belt clip, his fingers fumbled and slid around Clark’s sweat damp skin. Clark made a little noise and Lex realized--the kid was hard. He was staring at Lex with such intensity and heat he felt heat flow into his dick. Shit.

Lex turned him to face the pit. “Get him,” he said and pulled the chain loose.

Clark drew in a deep, deep breath. “No killing, not right away,” he said in a languid, dreamy tone of voice and was suddenly gone. Lex blinked. What the fuck—the fucker disappeared…he heard the crowd screaming hysterically and dashed to the edge of what was once upon a time, a swimming pool.

Clark was in the pit. He fought single mindedly, obviously holding back, but steadily beating the man back towards the wall.

Lex watched, and though Clark had decent form, skill was not winning the day here; the other fighter was worlds better--or would have been. Lex grunted. Clark couldn’t be hurt. It could never be a fair fight. Clark without the stone was unbeatable, apparently invincible. All that was happening here was a long, slow, death by beating.

The crowd loved it.

Clark was smeared in blood, he and the other man were sliding around in it, and still kept attacking. Lex guessed that a drug fueled berserker rage was all that kept the other man on his feet. He was certain the poor fucker didn’t even feel what was happening to him….

Lex moved back from the edge, moved back against the wall. He knew what was going to happen down there. It was time to see what was happening in the crowd, make contacts as Dad said. Gather…information.

He swept his eyes over the avid faces in the throng lining all sides of the former swimming pool. Most were riveted to the massacre below, but some were moved by the dance taking place there in an ancient way—a primal response to blood and death.

There was an executive that he’d dealt with a few times before his sideways promotion, Lex mused. The woman on her knees in front of him wasn’t his wife—or his mistress. Or a woman, under all the silk and paint. Lex raised an eyebrow and made a mental note. That might come in handy some day. He adjusted himself as discretely as possible and spent a few moments admiring talent that deserved to be rewarded. He’d have to find out who that was…and schedule an evening together.

He spent a few minutes watching other couples have sex on the narrow seats set in tiers around the pit and sighed. So little time…he adjusted himself again.

The crowd noise rose to an ear-shattering shriek, so Lex made his way back to the edge of the pit. Pit. Former pool. God—sink hole of horror. He looked over the side, blood splashed the walls and the floor, and Clark stood in the middle of it all, beautiful white teeth gleaming in a rust colored smear.

He looked up and caught sight of Lex at the edge. Lex saw his mouth move, his lips formed his name and the crowd roared again when he leaped up to the lip of the pit.

Clark towered over him, the power and energy flowing off of him pushed Lex back from the edge and the men around him moved forward, but they were used to post –fight Clark—they were alert but not alarmed. He yanked Lex forward and pushed his nose into his neck, groaning and sniffing, loud deep whuffling noises that put him in mind of a puppy, and the image would have been cute, if Clark wasn’t covered in blood and grinding his steel hard dick into his leg…God this kid was big. Curiosity made him reach between them and feel just how big he was. Clark bucked against his hand and groaned so loud that Lex felt himself respond, his dick surged hard and he had to bite down on a groan himself—“fuck, where’s that collar--give me the god-damn collar--”

Clark immediately dropped his hands and stepped back, head down and eyes to the floor. Lex buckled the collar on and replaced the chain, the bracelets and Clark shrunk, paled, turned inside himself. He was silent, a lone tear washing a trail through the blood smeared on his cheeks.

“For God’s sake,” Lex snarled. “Take him back and clean him the fuck up.”

“What about you, sir?” Philip asked, his voice shook—he swallowed. “Aren’t you riding back with us? I don’t think—I mean—“ He whispered harshly, “Is he safe --” Philip’s face was white as paper—this was his first time at the Arena as well. Lex snarled. It was one thing to be told about it…something else entirely to witness it….

“Is he safe? What in the hell do you get paid for? Get him back to his room.” He made a dismissive gesture and sneered. Philip reached out for Clark’s arm, and then yanked his hand back, flinched when Clark touched him. Clark seemed to deflate even more. Lex watched Clark shuffle along in Philip’s wake. He didn’t look back.

 

Philip sat in his room and listened to the kid cry. He felt like vomiting. That—that--thing in the other room, crying like a little kid, beat a man to death. And liked it.

What the hell was he—it? What happened to that…to make it into something so inhuman?

Maybe the rumors were true. Maybe Lionel did make it. It was…without the collar and other things, it was unbeatable. Not a fucking bit of the blood he’d washed down the drain had been his. And he—it—wasn’t bruised, marked in any way at all. Shit. And it stood under that spray…hard…that shit made it hard. Fuck!

Philip jumped up and stalked around the room, furious, and not sure why. Damn it. He needed out—he needed to get out of the building, get around normal people, do normal things—get drunk, get a girl, get unconscious….

He closed his eyes and sighed. It was still crying….

He got up and walked to the room, looked in the doorway. It was on the floor.

“Ah…Clark…the doors unlocked, you know.”

It nodded and scooted into a tighter ball. There was something in its hands, and Philip stepped carefully closer and looked, nervous of it now. He peered into the gloom of the cage and when Clark shifted a little, got a clear view of his hands.

Oh fuck me. Philip dropped into a squat, his head lowered. Fucking hell.

The kid had a stuffed bear or something crammed against his chest. Christ. Philip felt like he’d been kicked hard in the chest. He felt like goddamn Alice.

“C’mere kid, why the hell are you crying?” And he nearly choked on the words.

“I’m not crying.” The voice rose a little, sounding insulted and Philip smiled in spite of himself.

“No, you’re not crying. Come here.” He reached out and laid a shaky hand on the kid’s head, and after a moment, let out a soft huff. It was just a kid. He was just a kid.

At the light touch, Clark slid a little closer, but wouldn’t meet Philip’s eyes. Instead, he muttered,” Do you know why he hates me so much?”

Philip eased down to the floor. “The boss? He doesn’t hate you.” Philip winced.

“You’re lying,” Clark said, with no heat to his words, it was simply a statement of fact.

“Oh--no really, he just doesn’t know you.”

“He didn’t like the fight but I did it like I was supposed to and it always made Lionel happy. Why won’t it make Lex happy?”

Philip gaped—speechless. What could he say? He was still trying to get used to the idea of a merciless killer crying over a stuffed bear. Fuck, what did Lionel do to this poor shit?

He found himself with his arm around Clark’s neck, and leaning back against the bars. Clark was quiet and after a while, deep regular breathing told him he was asleep.

Lex had to do something. He had to know this kid was just that—whatever the hell his father had done to him, inside, he was still a kid.

 

Lex turned over what Philip said in his mind. He thought about it, watching Clark try to stretch out on the fold away bed that replaced the cot. He thought about the description Philip gave him of Clark crying, and -–and the bear, the stuffed animal. The kid was a giant, and he slept with a toy? Fucking turned to a toy for comfort. It chilled him. He’d seen him with Ernie and Max. It didn’t add up.

He watched the tapes from the room and thought about Clark.

Lex decided it was time to find out more about Clark. What was he? Some kind of experiment? Lionel had turned his own son into a science project once upon a time—maybe Clark was a successful project. It would explain a lot. He knew the collar and chain contained the meteorite from Smallville. Lex face twisted at the thought. He knew that it could change a person. Maybe Clark was an infected person also. Maybe his dad infected him on purpose. Lex felt icy tendrils wrap his spine… he’d probably been in this cage since the first time he saw him, slowly being altered, molded into a monster…he couldn’t imagine what was worse, that his father could do this or that he found it so completely easy to believe.

He hated to admit that he was scared of anything; he’d cut his own tongue out before he’d admit it out loud. But this was…something you should be scared of. Clark scared the hell out of him. And what scared him had to be examined, turned inside out and upside down until it had no power over him. Lex turned off the feed from the cage room camera and laughed sourly. That worked for everything but his major nightmare. He smiled at the picture of his dad sitting on the gleaming desktop. He imagined everyone had one fear they were helpless against.

 

He stood outside the cage room and watched Clark. It was becoming a hobby.

Clark looked up and smiled, and it sent a little bubble of warmth through him, and on the heels of that a sharp stab of anger. It made him mad, the effect he had on him. And Clark, always so fucking in tune to whatever he was feeling, looked like he’d been kicked and turned his eyes to the floor again. How the fuck could anyone like him have so much fucking hope? Was he really that stupid?

“What are you doing?” He asked and the boy in the cage said, "I’m—I was thinking about grass.”

Lex blinked. Clark always answered him with strange, off the wall responses. “Okay, grass. What about it?”

“Is it ever curly?” He glanced quickly at Lex and stared at the floor.

Lex laughed. “Curly? Ah—no. It’s short or long or maybe bent a little, but it’s not curly. Why?”

“I had a dream it was. Can…can I ask about going to see the sun? I haven’t been to see it…”

Lex made a sound of annoyance and Clark huddled closer to the floor. “Philip!”

Philip came around the corner quickly, with a hard look for Lex. “Yeah…Sir?”

“Whenever he wants to see the sun, take him. In fact Clark, when you want to see it, go in the living room. You can leave the cage you know. Did you tell him?” He directed that at Philip.

“Yes, Sir. I said. I’ve told him many times. Sometimes, he creeps to the bathroom by himself.” He kept looking at Lex like it was his fault.

Lex took a deep breath and walked into the cage. He sat gingerly on the edge of Clark’s bed and said. “Did you hear Philip?”

Clark nodded.

“Look at me when I talk to you.”

Clark raised his chin and blinked nervously. “Yes, Le—sir.”

Lex sighed. “Don’t call me sir. It’s Lex. For both of you.”

Clark glanced at Philip and Philip smiled at him. Clark said yes.

“Okay.” Lex looked around the cage, noted the positions of the cameras. Decided maybe he should check them more often. He stood. “Well. Do you want to go now?”

Clark leaped up, the puppy happy grin in place again, and Philip looked at him with an actual smile. Lex stalked past him, refusing to smile back.

His approval was worthless, he could care less.

 

Chapter Eight

"You may bribe a soldier to slay a man with his sword, or a witness to take life by false accusation; but you cannot make a hound tear his benefactor."

– Sir Walter Scott

 

Clark was learning against the living room window. The sun turned his skin gold, and his eyes were closed, lips bent in a smile. That scruffy bear thing was in his hand, and he looked like he was sleeping. The slight green tint to his skin was less in the sunlight and he seemed taller. It was obvious to Lex he needed it, that it was vital to some part of his altered make-up. He itched to know what mutations had taken place in Clark, how they differed from his own. He touched his bare scalp and wondered why he had lost his hair and Clark hadn’t. Wondered again if Clark was made to be this way purposefully, instead of accidentally like himself.

He spent as much time as he safely could looking for information on Clark. There was no mention of him in any of the business records. Lionel had detailed records on all his fighters except Clark. The fact that there was nothing there was a giant red flag. He had to step carefully. Clearly Lionel didn’t want information about Clark to be public. That it was so well hidden meant it was dangerous as hell to look for it.

He’d even had Dr. Keller’s old research on him exhumed and went over it with a fine-toothed comb. He found plenty of interesting information about himself, but no mention of Clark. Lex knew Clark had been here as early as that, at least as early as seven years ago. He’d seen him as a boy in Lionel’s office, watched his dad kiss him—Lex’s stomach did a slow, sick roll. God, as young as that…he felt a shudder of sympathy for Clark. There had to be something, somewhere, on this kid. His dad was too inclined to catalogue and define every aspect of life not to have done so with Clark.

In the meantime, he’d settled into an odd and creepy kind of domestic situation with Clark and Philip. They took meals together, watched movies together, lived like bachelors together. He snorted at the thought. Sweet, except that one of them was trained to rip a man’s heart out on command. He looked over at Philip thoughtfully. He might be able to do that too. Philip looked up at Lex and cocked an eyebrow.

A tiny sigh let him know Clark was back at the table. Thankfully, he’d left that godawful stuffed thing at the window. He scowled at it—it was ridiculous, stupid—the kid was nearly a grown man and still walked around with it. He idly thought about taking it away. When he looked away from the window, he caught Philip staring at him. Lex smirked and turned his attention back to his breakfast and tried to ignore Clark’s tentative brushes against his sleeve.

The kid would not stop trying to touch him. Lex felt the pressure constantly, as though Clark was always just one minute from pawing all over him. It made him uneasy, to be the object of such obsession. He moved, flushed, and bit the inside of his cheek. It reminded him uncomfortably of Lionel. Clark might be in the cage, but both of them were thralls to the man. He was more than grateful not to have Lionel here, grateful that he was out from under the spell he wove…he stood abruptly. “I’m going out for a while.”

Clark made a face dangerously near a pout and Lex scowled at him. “Keep an eye on him; he’s supposed to work out today,” he told Philip, and Clark’s face fell. Philip stared at him with an expression so blank it was practically a slap in the face. Lex asked himself again why he didn’t fire the man, but he was good with Clark, and kept him busy, and Clark liked him…a lot it seemed.

He needed another handler. He’d meant to do that but he kept putting it off but. Yes. He really needed to take care of that bit of business. Take the stress off of Philip. He’d look into that today.

Philip was talking to Clark and Lex turned his attention back to them.

“—okay? After, we can watch a movie, your choice, Clark.” Clark turned toward Philip and smiled, a bright happy smile, and Philip smiled back, the tips of his ears turning pink. Lex frowned to himself. For a straight guy, he seemed a little too pleased by Clark’s attention.

He didn’t like it.

He didn’t like the way Clark smiled at Philip---and it shocked him. Close on the heels of it came the familiar spike of anger. He shook the feeling off, it was stupid. Why should he care about his father’s toy? This was business.

He went from the parking garage straight to the office in the Carver St. Building and asked his secretary if they’d gotten results from the search for a driver and did she have some candidates for the handler’s job he’d spoken to her about?

She raised eyebrows and looked a little put upon and Lex reminded himself that killing the help would be counterproductive in the long run.

“I sent you information on the candidates for the other position a while ago? Check your inbox. I just sent you the resume of a driver I think would do well for you. He drove for your father before being transferred here? He’s got an excellent record. He’s been with the company for quiet a while, nearly eight years…”

Lex felt a little shiver run down his spine. “Send him up in a half hour. I’ll let you know when to send up the candidate for the handler’s job.” He knew who it was…his heart pounded painfully in his chest….

He set the stage for his interview, striving to look like a busy man, a mature man with the responsibility of running a business. He deflated a little. An illegal and twisted fight operation that would get them all jailed for life--if they were lucky—and if his dad didn’t own every square inch of Metropolis…fuck.

The intercom buzzed and he sat straighter. He pasted a casual look of interest on his face. “Send him in.”

He was looking down at the pages on his desk when the door opened and he heard the faint footfall on the carpet. There was no sound, he waited and waited, until the silence made him uneasy and he looked up into the relaxed, incurious face of the man in front of his desk.

“Ah—you are…Raymond Conner?”

The man looked at him, a wry smile flitted over his features, before sinking back into the blank look. “Yeah…I’m Ray Conner. Sir.”

“Mr. Luthor will do just fine,” he said and felt like a giant ass. “I mean, Lex is fine.” Lex flushed pink and put the paper down carefully. “I’m looking for a personal driver, who understands the need for discretion. One trained in defense, who can also act as a bodyguard. I don’t like to have a lot of people around me,” he explained and blushed again, frowned—he didn’t have to explain anything to an employee.

Ray smiled again, a chilly little twitch of his lips. His eyes were cold and flat and Lex was horribly certain that the man didn’t know who he was…or didn’t care. Ray didn’t remember him. It hurt, surprisingly badly, yet there was the tiniest bit of relief. Maybe he didn’t know about the things he’d been doing, either….”Would you be interested in the position? It pays well…”

“Yeah. I’d like to get out of the pool. Some of those guys--” He stopped. “Yes. Sir. Lex.”

He drawled out the words and Lex blushed again, cursed himself. Why the hell was he acting like he was fourteen again? “Good. We just need to talk salary—it’s a live in position, do you need to make arrangements?”

“No. I live at Carver Street. In the dormitories. I don’t have anything I need to make arrangements about. When do you want me to start?”

Lex was surprised that it was just that simple. He felt his jaw loosen, and frowned. “Fine.” He stood. “This evening then. Gail will have everything you need, Stop and see her before you go.” Lex heaved an internal sigh of relief. This was the way to do it, as though this was a legitimate business….

Ray nodded. “Okay.” He inclined his head a bit and left.

Lex dropped down in the chair breathing heavy. Okay—that was…horrible. Looking at Ray reminded him of how horribly he’d failed Robin. He was nothing like the kind of man he would have wanted Lex to be. Thank God he didn’t know. He never wanted him to know.

 

Clark watched the movie and kept sneaking looks at Philip. He was nice, nicer by far then anyone he’d ever known yet, except for Lionel…he frowned, his forehead wrinkled as he turned the thought over.

Lionel was nice, wasn’t he? He took care of him, fed him, bought him clothes, let him out to the sun…he took him to the Arena…he touched him, made him feel warm…that was nice, wasn’t it? Clark looked at Philip again and felt dizzy, uneasy. These thoughts were confusing him. He sighed. Ever since he—Lex came, his thoughts were getting more and more confused. He thought that pleasing Lionel was the most important thing he could do, and that everything else that happened in his life happened because he was stupid, or because he wasn’t as good as real people. But…Philip acted like he was, even after he saw him in the pit, he still acted like he was real. Not like Ernie, or Max or any of the others that had taken care of him for Lionel.

He slowly edged his way over on the couch, staring at the screen but sinking closer and closer to Philip. Philip seemed not to notice, eyes fixed on the screen also, but when Clark’s head brushed his shoulder, Clark could hear his heart beat quicker, and harder. After a moment Philip asked, “Are you tired? Do you want to lay down?” His words were calm but his reaction the opposite—his heart raced and Clark was close enough to him to smell sweat. Clark jerked away from Philip. He recognized that the man was going through a fight-or-flight reaction. It scared Clark. He didn’t understand it.

Philip stood and smiled, swiped the palms of his hands against his legs.

“Hey, come on, I’ve got something for you, anyway. I was saving it, but what do you say

I give it to you now?”

They went back to the little room, and walked into his bed, and even though Philip left the door open, Clark looked behind him to check. He liked the door open. It made him nervous to walk out—but it felt good to see it standing open. He frowned again, would Lionel lock it when he came back? He didn’t want him to…to lock it. He didn’t want him. To lock…Clark felt nervous, sick, his own heart raced. He shuffled a little closer to Philip and waited for what it was he meant to give him. He reached out and put the tips of his fingers on Philip’s arm. It helped, he felt less dizzy and lost. He pressed just a little and Philip smiled and patted his hand. He slid away at the same time. “I’ll be right back, okay? I’m going get dinner.”

Clark nodded and watched him leave. What would happen when Lionel came back? Would Philip leave, would Lex leave?

He bit his lip, chewed it. He’d—he’d rather that Lionel stay away, he thought. He’d rather have Lex. He heard his heart stutter, and weaved on his feet.

Oh.

He didn’t mean it, Lionel was nice, he was everything, he kept Clark safe from people who’d hurt him terribly if they knew he wasn’t a real person, like the people who’d hurt him when he was a baby…he dropped to the ground and whined softly…where was Bear? He looked around…where was he?

Philip was at the door, something gleaming in his hands and a big smile on his face.

“Lex told me you can read, and you don’t have any books and I thought you might want one. Do you—want one?” He looked a little less sure.

Clark stared, open-mouthed. When he could speak he said, “Lionel has a lot of books. Shelves and shelves…” he felt so stupid. What a stupid thing to say. And now Philip was looking at him strange, his hand going down…

Clark jumped to his feet. “May I see it please?” and held out his hand.

Philip nodded and put the book in his hand, “It might be...might be too hard for you to read. I didn’t think…”

Clark looked at the cover of the book, stroked it. It was shiny, smooth—he held it to his nose. It had a unique smell, a good smell.

“It’s The Giver. It’s supposed to be really good…the person at the bookstore thought so anyway….”

“It is—I’m sure it will be. Thank you.” Clark stood, squeezing the book in his hands, conflicting instincts freezing him in place. If it had been Lionel, or handlers from before, he’d know what was to come next. He took a small step forward--but Philip made it clear that he never expected that from Clark. Clark swallowed and made a small noise of confusion, and Philip leaned over and patted him on the back. “Go ahead Clark, look at it. I’ll come get you for dinner, okay?”

Clark sank to the floor, relief making his knees weak. He smiled up at Philip. “Thank you.”

Philip nodded and waved, walked away.

Clark opened the book. He adjusted the chain around his waist so that the little chip on the end wasn’t touching his skin directly and stretched out his legs. He leafed through the pages and frowned a little. There were no bright pictures, like Bertie and Clark, he could read the words, but they were small. He was a little disappointed but the book was a gift, and he should try to read it, it would be ungrateful not to.

He ran his fingers gently over the crisp pages, and thought of Lex. He was probably smooth like this, he thought, so smooth, so clean. Clark imagined touching Lex’s cheek, skimming over warm skin down to his neck, his chest…Clark felt a warm tingle, and imagined working his fingers around pink nipples, feeling them pebble up under his fingertips, tracing his way down Lex’s belly, down to where the skin was probably very soft, and nice to touch—he gasped. He imagined pressing his face down under Lex’s navel and breathing, just breathing, maybe the tip of his tongue gathering the taste of him…Clark ‘s eyes shot open and he blushed deeply. He put the book down and pressed his hand against his throbbing erection.

Philip called out to Clark and Clark stood awkwardly, adjusted his hardened length to lay more comfortably.

“Dinner, Clark.”

“Yes, I’m coming.” He slid the book under his pillow and went in to dinner.

 

The next fight Clark had was almost a disaster. He wouldn’t fight at first, still wrestling with his confused thoughts about Lionel--about his place in the world. Lex threatened to return to locking the cage, threatened to take everything from him. He took a baton from one of the men and hit Clark, hard enough to bruise him. The pain wasn’t particularly unbearable, but it was Lex. Lex hurt him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he struggled to hold them back, afraid to make Lex even angrier.

Lex clicked the latch on the chain and Clark moaned low, against his will, felt it vibrate in his throat. His muscles jumped and twitched at the sudden release. He turned out of habit to face the pit and heard Lex whisper, “Bend your neck and fucking do as you’re told,” and felt the collar came off.

Clark felt the familiar rush of well-being and power, filling his heart, filling his dick. He ground his teeth, fighting against the impulses that the sudden freedom brought, that he’d been trained to feel. Clark stared at Lex, the crowd, at Philip. He stood still, and everyone tensed, reached for the batons at their side and Clark laughed. He tilted his head back and stared at the high ceiling of the Arena. Lex looked up too, Clark smiled. Lex didn’t understand—to him, there was nothing above them except exposed pipes, wires and girders, the underside of the floor above the old pool.

He dropped his head and Clark licked his lips, watched Lex’s pupils expand. He sniffed, breathed in Lex scent and sighed. Clark looked over his shoulder at the new man, the driver, who was looking at him, a calm and measuring look. He looked up too, and back at Clark…and smiled. A long slow smile that made Clark feel warm. He was good to look at but more than that—this man knew. Clark laughed again and Lex snapped, “What, what is it?”

For a heartbreaking moment, Clark felt so sorry for Lex, and reached out and stroked his cheek. It was as soft as he remembered, his fingers remembered and trembled. Poor Lex, poor caged Lex—he dropped his hand and flipped backwards into the pit and the crowd roared, ready for blood. This was it, he thought as he hit the floor of the pit with a crack loud as a gunshot. This was the only reason he was alive. The only reason Lionel wanted him. Today was not the day, he thought as he sidestepped the wild man rushing him. “Not yet,” he muttered and swung the berserker into the wall. He needed to think, to be sure what he thought….

 

Lex watched Clark slowly beat the man to pieces and shivered. It was horrible and almost…he pulled at the tie around his neck and it slid into place. The heat began to bother him and he pulled the folded bit of purple silk free of his breast pocket, dabbed at his lip. He snuck a glance to his side, and saw that Ray was watching Clark, expressionless as always except when he glanced up once at the ceiling and smiled, shook his head. As always, Philip had his back turned to the pit; he watched the double doors as if a miracle waited behind them.

Ray caught Lex looking at him, so Lex asked. “What’s so damn funny up there?”

Ray raised an eyebrow. Pointed. “Up there? He could have left.—he could have jumped right through the roof.” He nodded at the pit. “I’m thinking it’s not your little sticks and collars and rocks that keep him here. And he’s beginning to figure it out. Lex. Sir. Boss.”

The crowd screamed, a long animal sound of orgasm, and Lex braced himself. He found his breath coming shorter and he moved a bit closer to the pit edge, watching for Clark, and suddenly he was in front of him, big and wet, radiating heat, stinking of blood and sweat. He pushed against him, and Lex waited for him to settle down, but this time he grabbed his neck, forced his mouth open and kissed him, grabbed his hips and pressed his steel hard erection into him, squirmed until Lex was nearly riding his hips and rocked until Lex saw stars, was gasping. He could feel Clark’s dick twitch, and he rolled his hips, trying to line their dicks up. Clark pushed up and Lex’s head dropped back, “Ah—fuck—“ and the collar smacked into his shoulder and he heard Philip hiss, “Stop.”

Lex came back into himself with a jolt. Damn it! What the fuck was he doing—he pushed and Clark let himself be moved back…he was flushed, and hard, he was dripping sweat, his face was streaked with blood and he still managed to look like a kicked puppy.

Lex wiped at the blood on his own face and groaned silently, waved for Philip to collar and chain him again. Ray stared at him, silent, eyes dark.

“Get the fucking car already, he snapped.

Ray sneered and Lex continued. “I’m taking one of the other cars. You and Philip take Clark.” He turned away at the look of surprise on Ray’s face.

In the limo, he finally relaxed enough to breathe normally. So. Ray thought he was a bastard pervert. He thought the blood excited him. It was Clark that excited him; Clark made him want to rip off his clothes and just—fuck right there. Every time he got near him, he wanted to fuck him so hard…. Everything else was irrelevant—but Ray thought he was like his father. Everyone thought he was like his father. Clark thought he was like his father.

Clark.

 

Philip rode with Clark in the elevator, alone. Clark leaned against the wall and trembled, slow waves that pushed him against the panels, made him groan. Philip wanted to get him to the showers as quick as possible. His face was a mask of blood, and only the area around his mouth and eyes were clean. Philip’s eyes kept going to that terrible clean white swath around his lips. He shuddered and Clark’s eyes shot open, pinning him.

“We’re here,” he stammered and Clark nodded, walked out without a word. He followed Philip silently to the shower and stood patiently as he adjusted the jets and ushered Clark in.

He usually left Clark at this point—he was always so keyed up and jumpy and Philip knew he needed the release of orgasm, but he didn’t like to watch. He wasn’t like those creeps from before. He figured it was no accident those abusive baboons had been in here.

He sighed, and leaned against the wall opposite the shower. Thank God he was straight--Clark had no concept of personal space, or private activities—how could he? But today…something was different. He thought he should stay…in case. Clark had acted so oddly that Philip was nervous—worried for Clark.

Clark kept his back to him; water running down his back, pouring in sheets off of him to the floor. Pink water swirled across the tiles and into the drains and Philip found his eyes following the play of muscle over Clark’s back, the pull and tug as he lifted his arms, shifted his feet, ran the soap-filled sponge over his ribs. He watched the foam run down his thighs and chase the water into the drains. He heard Clark’s breathing change, saw his movements change, Clark was jerking off. He was nearly flat against the wall, hunched slightly as if to cover himself. Philip could tell he was holding his breath, holding in the groans he usually let go.

Philip watched Clark’s ass flex and relax, watched his elbow move. He watched muscles in his back tense and watched him raise on his toes, heard him groan, long, low, breathy as he shook and his arm moved faster and faster until he gasped and froze, just his thighs trembling…come ran around the drain and down. A few seconds went by and Clark asked him to shut the water off.

“Your—your towel is on the hook. Go to bed.”

Clarks head whipped around. “You’re not walking me back to the room?”

“Clark, you’re a big boy, you can find it.”

Philip went into his bedroom and latched the door. He lay down on his bed and didn’t touch himself at all.

 

The next time Clark fought, there was another change in his behavior, and this time Lex was totally unprepared. The collar was removed, the chain, the bracelets, it felt like ritual to Lex, like some form of worship—he waited, feeling his heart speed up, waited for the change to affect Clark.

Clark threw his head back and growled deep in his chest. It was low and vibrated in Lex’s ears and he was about to ask if anyone else heard it when Ray suddenly jerked upright and grabbed for a baton. Before Lex could move Clark was on him, crowding him against his men. Ray was trapped behind them, the bodies around him hindering his movement. The other men reacted slowly—they were used to a fairly docile Clark at all times. But this time—Clark snarled at Lex, his lips pulled back from his teeth and Lex thought, they’re a rather impressive set of fangs for a boy, before he felt them on his neck. Not penetrating, just pinching a fold of flesh between them, just on the edge of pain. So far he thought, but strangely he was unafraid. If Clark had planned to kill him, he’d be dead already.

Clark leaned back and Lex saw that his eyes were cloudy with frustration. “You make me want to kill you,” he rasped, pain making his voice rough.

“No, you don’t want to do that,” Lex said. Clark let himself be pushed back by the men; Ray nearly threw Lex behind him.

“Do I need to do take some action here?” he asked, more to Clark than to Lex.

“No, we’re okay…” Lex stared at Clark’s mouth. “We are okay?”

Clark snarled and shook his head, flinging it back and forth like an agitated lion and leapt down into the pit. He stalked up to his opponent and before the other could move, broke his neck. The crack of breaking bone was loud in the sudden silence. The crowd seemed stunned into silence. He was back on the pool edge before the crowd erupted into booing and yelling.

“Get him out,” Lex yelled, and they hustled Clark back into the limo.

Lex sat in the back, scowling at Clark. Clark stared back, defiantly. What the fuck—what happened to him?

 

Lex and Philip hustled Clark into the showers, stripped him before he could move and pushed him in. Clark again nearly flattened himself against the tiles. Philip tried not to look because Lex was directly behind him and he was too aware of that, and Clark was in front of him and he was too aware of every move he made…he found himself straining to hear Clark’s breath, the tiny noises he made. He found himself trying to hear the slap of his hand against his belly…Philip shuddered and tried to back away when Clark arched slightly and moaned quietly. His back rippled, and he heard Lex’s breath catch.

Lex swallowed so hard he could hear it, and he said, “I—I ordered dinner…you two eat. I’m going out--”

“Ray?“

“He’s driving me.” And he was gone.

Philip heard a sob from the shower, and Clark turned to him. “Please, can you turn the water off?”

He looked so miserable, so not the defiant creature that had stared down Lex in the car. He patted Clark’s shoulder and drew the towel around him, and then pulled him in, and on impulse, hugged him. “I’m sorry, you poor little fucker. I’m so sorry.”

Clark gasped and began to cry in a quiet, hopeless way, shaking hard, fiercely biting his lip to keep any sound from escaping. Philip rocked him and stroked his shoulder, “Shh, shh, don’t cry, please, don’t cry. We’ll do something, we’ll help you, I swear.”

He had no idea what he was saying. He had no idea what he could do. He became aware that he was rocking back and forth and Clark was leaning against him, bit by bit he was leaning a little harder against him, and touching at every point. Philip was hyper aware of Clark’s damp heat, and he began to respond.

Clark’s lips touched his throat, and he didn’t stop him. The thought of him, naked, muscles working, flooded his mind and he got hard—Clark whined and pushed against him, pressing his legs wide and sliding between them, mouth opening over the tender skin of his throat and Philip gasped. It felt good, it felt…he moaned aloud,” I don’t know, I don’t know anymore….”

Philip pulled away and stared at Clark’s red flushed dick, and dropped to his knees, the hard tiled floor jarring him and sending a flash of pain up his legs. His cheek dragged the length of Clark’s leg. He fell forward and grabbed Clark’s hips to steady himself, bumped Clark’s dick and it made Clark shout, made his head hit the wall and the chain twisted under Philip’s fingers.

A few inches--an inch--a breath away. Clark’s dick slid back across his cheek and he shivered. Clark moaned and his hips bucked. A hot slippery streak of wet trailed from his cheek to his lip and his mouth fell open and the sharp taste bloomed on his tongue.

Water soaked into his pants from knee to shin, and his shirtsleeves were rapidly soaking the water from Clark’s legs, his hair was wet and sticking to Clark’s belly and his searching mouth found his dick. The heat and weight surprised him, his mouth felt stretched, he felt like he couldn’t breathe, and he felt his dick jerk in his pants, felt it spurt. He breathed through his nose, loud and ragged, his tongue swirled around and around the smooth head. It felt good under his tongue, it tasted good. Clark’s hands came down, hands cradled his head, so tenderly, for a moment, it felt right. Perfect…for a moment.

Shock froze him—the realization of what he was doing hit him all at once, like a plunge into like ice water. Philip jerked back, tangling the chain in his fingers, pulling Clark from the wall, and dragging the chip over his balls. He shouted and came, splashing Philip-- hot liquid ran down the side of his face, into his neck. He felt his own dick move and spurt again, still hard, still hot…he dropped backward onto the tiles and stared up at Clark.

Clark looked down with a slightly confused smile that slowly faded, as he understood that Philip was as horrified as he was aroused.

“Sorry, sorry! I thought—but you--”

Philip staggered to his feet, shaking his head as he backed away. “No, no, it’s not—it’s all right, it’s all right.” He whirled and ran from the bathroom, blocking everything out of his mind.

 

There was light under Lex’s office door, Philip knocked and walked in.

Lex was at his desk, on the floor around it was a sea of papers, pens, his phone—his desk had been swept clear. He fixed Philip with a cold glare, his eyes shone like ice out of his pale face. Two spots of pink on his cheekbones looked darker in the milk white skin. He didn’t move, didn’t speak. The light from the laptop washed his face and Philip knew he’d been watching the feed from the cameras.

“I need to get out--”

“Well, I can’t let you go. I need you here. And where else could you go and get paid what you get paid,” he sneered, “and then, there’s the benefits…”

Philip paled and ignored Lex’s comment. “I don’t mean quit. Can’t. Clark needs me…even though I fucked up horribly…oh God.” He sunk his head into his hands and stared at the floor until Lex spoke.

“I can give you a few days. Ray can cover.”

Philip nodded and then sank uninvited into the chair at the desk. “Fuck!” He gripped a handful of his hair and yanked savagely at it.” I don’t know what happened. I’m not gay, I’ve never touched another guy, never looked…but…”

Lex swung his chair to face towards the windows. “It’s okay.” At the snort from the other he said it again, “No, I really do mean it’s all right. He’s…” Lex laughed a little wildly. “He does something, doesn’t he?” He looked at Philip and grimaced. “I didn’t want to look. I’m sorry.”

Philip looked up, paled impossibly further, and then, turned a deep red as blood flooded his face. “Yeah.”

Lex swallowed. “Go pack. Do what you have to. Take a few days. The schedule’s clear. When you come back I’ll have someone to help.”

 

Long after Philip had left the office, he sat at the desk thinking, smoking, and staring out through the undraped windows. He sighed and played with the ashtray on the desk, swinging it one way and another. Ash spattered the spotless gleaming surface and he smeared it with the heel of his hand and smiled, thought of his dad and butt the cigarette out in the crystal ashtray. Nude Greek figures decorated the edge, and he wondered how someone as unsubtle as his father managed to fool so many people…

He dropped his chin on his folded hands. Clark brought trouble with him, he unsettled everyone around him. Just being near him had turned Philip’s world upside down, turned Lex’s world on its ear. He’d been content…well, resigned was probably a better word for it, but life was livable. Now…he wanted things, something he hadn’t for a long time. He wanted his own life; he wanted free. He reminded himself over and over that Clark had been the reason he spent those years in boarding school—unwanted and unloved. And then, God, there was everything he’d done to get Lionel’s approval, to feel that in some way his dad had need of him, cared for him….

He shoved back from the desk and jumped up. Clark had taken his place in a way. Clark had taken all of Lionel’s time, taken everything and he’d had to beg and bargain his way back. Lex tugged at his tie, cursed. The damn thing refused to sit right. He jerked and tugged on it and tried to order his thoughts as he tried to smooth his tie.

Shit. He sighed. He was being an asshole. He envied a kid--locked in a cage, abused and raped—fuck, they had the same life, only his cage was on the inside.

The truth of it was, unlike him, Clark was good. He just wasn’t human. Not his fault—Dad had done his best work there. He’d taken what must have been as close to a normal boy as people like Clark and he could get and turned him into a pet. A dog. Lionel was so good at altering people, tailoring them to his needs—Clark, his pet, Lex, his whore….

Before Lionel came back, he wanted to give Clark back his humanity. It was the right thing to do. If it was possible.

And he had just the person in mind to help. If anyone could help Clark, he could.

 

 

Chapter Nine

"No man can be condemned for owning a dog. As long as he has a dog, he has a friend; and the poorer he gets, the better friend he has."

- Will Rogers

 

Lex watched the tall, dignified looking man walk along the sidewalk. He carried a short jacket with a local school’s patch on the shoulder, and a battered lunch pail. He greeted his neighbors politely as he walked, smiling and tossing off a casual wave to some, stopping briefly to talk, lean on a step, with a few. The neighborhood had seen better days, but it was obvious the people who lived there had pride in their homes. It was just as obvious they looked up to the man Lex trailed.

Lex followed him to the steps of a slightly rundown town house and stopped him before he opened the door. “I need to talk with you—now.” Lex knew he’d been noticed--and tracked--the entire time he followed him.

The face turned towards his, eyes deep and cold—unreadable. “I would think that refusing your calls would send a clear message.”

“I’m offering you a job, something you haven’t really had since…my father fired you.”

“Fired me and sabotaged every step I took, you mean—because a boy needed help. I thought.” He looked Lex in the eyes. “From what I hear, you don’t need a man like me around to crimp your…style.”

Lex heard the scorn in his voice and his heart broke, and froze in the same moment.

“Actually, I need someone like you, to fix a boy.” Lex rocked back on his heels, shoved his hands in his pockets and lifted his chin. He kept his voice level and soft, the way he’d learned to. It hurt to talk to him this way—the way he talked to Lionel. “A boy who deserves to be fixed.”

He shook his head and turned back to the door.

Lex reached out and grabbed his arm. The man stopped, head down, not looking at him. Quietly, in a voice full of menace he said, “Let go of me.”

“You need to see this.” Lex turned him until he was facing him and handed over an envelope.

“The first few are of your youngest son’s school,” he said as the man opened it. “The next few—the school where your wife works. And--your family at the park, lovely shot, don’t you think? Here’s your eldest in California. He chose a good school. Is that his girlfriend? She’s pretty.”

The man flipped through the glossy photographs over and over before finally looking at Lex—not with the fear he somewhat expected. Disgust filled his eyes.

“Why?”

“People—they’re so fragile, so in need of protection. I can keep them safe. From anyone…” ‘Even me’ was implied by the smile Lex gave him. It hurt more than he’d imagined it would. It was only knowing that he’d paid the price for this years in advance that kept him speaking. “You want to keep them safe, don’t you? You’ll be well paid, extremely well paid. And you won’t have to worry about them.” He indicated the envelope held loosely in the man’s hand.

“I—I.” He laughed, a sharp bitter bark. “I have no choice do I? I never expected this from you, A--Alexander. I always hoped you’d do better, break free…”

“Well, that’s none of your fucking concern now, is it Mr. Wald? Report on Monday, I’ll fill you in on your duties then. Keep the pictures. Maybe you’ll want to frame them.”

He walked away and felt the other’s eyes drilling holes in his back. Fuck you Robin, if you’d cared one mother fucking moment…his eyes blurred briefly. He wiped his nose on his coat sleeve like he was a child again, and swallowed a sob. He owed him, Robin owed him plenty.

 

He called Philip and Ray into the office, and asked them to sit.

He poured himself a drink, and offered drinks to the men waiting for him to fill them in on the reason for the meeting.

Lex occupied himself with dropping ice into the tumblers, and slowly poured amber liquid over the cubes. They cracked and clicked against the sides of the glass, and the sharp odor of the alcohol filled his nose.

Ray took the tumbler with thanks and Philip took it silently, taking a quick gulp before looking at Lex impatiently.

“Is this about the help you said you were going to hire? Because I don’t like most of the guys over at the MAC.”

Lex thought for a beat—The Mac? Ah-the MAC—the Metropolis Athletic Club. The Pit over at Carver Street. “Yes, it is, and no, I didn’t hire anyone from the Carver St. Building. I went outside. I picked someone I have reason to believe will be loyal and discrete.”

Ray looked at him over the rim of the glass . “Did you? Good. Clark needs someone decent. Like Philip.”

And Philip blushed deeply, deeply red. He stared down at his feet and Lex looked angrily at Ray.

“What? What’s wrong…” he quieted at Lex gesture and looked thoughtfully at Philip.

Lex went on. “The new hire won’t be living on the premises, and he’ll deal directly with Clark but not involving any aspect of the business. He has no idea really, about any of this.”

“The fuck—I mean, why? How in the hell is that helping?”

“It will help Clark. I hope.”

Philip raised his head. “Help Clark—you want to break his conditioning, don’t you? You want…”

“I want Clark to be happy. If he can be. Do you?”

Philip silently nodded and Ray shrugged.

“What the fuck--I’m just the help. What the boss does means nothing to me. Your business is your business,” but there was a little light of curiosity in his eyes.

“His name is Robin Wald and--”

Ray stood and cursed. “You son of a bitch—what the fuck did you do to get him to agree?” Philip looked at Ray in open-mouthed shock, Lex just waited for the tide of emotion to settle, smiled the little amused smirk he’d learned to use to buy himself time. It was guaranteed to anger an opponent—and it worked as well as ever.

Ray took two steps over and knocked Lex on his ass. “You fucking Luthors think you own the world. You think everyone’s your dog.”.

Philip jumped up and tried to get between the two. “You don’t get it—you don’t know—he cares! He cares about Clark.”

“Wanting to have his very own personal fucktoy and caring are two different things. Luthors don’t care, they use.”

Lex laughed and climbed back to his feet, using his desk as support. “That’s right Ray, we use everybody around us. I’m using you and Phil here and I’m going to use Robin and Clark too, use him up and throw him away. Because we Luthors love to do that.”

He snatched his glass fro the desk and snarled as a bit of liquid sloshed over his knuckles—he threw the glass at the windows. It hit the drapes and the dove gray turned black where the scotch splashed out and ran down. The glass hit the carpet with a thump and rolled.

“It’s not my fucking problem that you’re in love with someone who’ll never love you back—even I’ve never been that stupid. Suck it the fuck up and deal with it—hey, maybe Philip here will fuck you. Turns out he likes cock as well as pussy. Life’s a learning experience, isn’t it?”

He stalked out of the room and slammed the door to.

 

Ray glared after Lex. “See? Just like his father--”

“You’re the biggest asshole I’ve ever met and that’s saying something in this business.”

“What? Didn’t you hear what he said? He insulted you, that’s what they do—find a sore spot and rip it open—fucking Luthors.”

“Shut up. I was starting to like you—shut the fuck up before I change my mind.”

Ray gaped at him. “You’re sticking up for him? And what do you mean--like me?”

Philip made an impatient gesture and snapped, “Can’t you see when someone’s beating the crap out of themselves? You can’t see how much pain he’s in, you dick?”

Ray remembered a little boy, curled in a corner of the limousine, weeping brokenheartedly, and swearing he’d never love anyone else ever again. He felt a twinge of guilt and countered with, “He lets his dad use him to get what he wants—he’s a whore. He lets his dad…” He stopped.

“Yeah, he does. And you blame him.” Philip stood. “You’ve seen Clark and know what he is, and you still blame Lex, you heartless dick.”

He walked to the door, and turned back toward Ray. “You know about shutting up before I dislike you? It’s too late.” He walked out.

 

Robin used the keys he’d gotten in the mail to let himself into the apartment, and was a little surprised at how Spartan it was. There was a weirdly placed wall cutting the apartment in half. He walked around it and stopped short—the wall concealed a cage…there was a kid, in the cage. The door was open but…what the hell was going on?

The boy looked at him open mouthed, backing up a little when he walked into the cage.

“Who…who are you? Do you know Lex? Are you the new handler?”

Robin stared. What the hell. What did Alexander want him to do? What screwed up game was he playing? He walked closer and Clark seemed to vibrate with tension the closer he came. “Hello, Clark…that’s your name, right?” The boy nodded and Robin sat on the bed next to him. Clark swayed away. There was a lumpy bag of fuzz on his bed, and he grabbed for it. Robin blinked, opened his mouth, swallowed and went on.

“Luthor—Lex—wants me to be your friend. He wants me to teach you things. Would you like that?” Close up he could see that the boy clutching the ancient teddy bear was a little older than he’d thought, intelligence glowed in his eyes, but he radiated a kind of…innocence that shouldn’t be possible.

Clark nodded again, and for some reason seemed fixated on his hands. Stared openly and finally lifted his eyes to Robin’s.

“Can I touch you?”

Robin’s eyes shot wide. “What?”

“Can I touch you,” he asked again, and looked excited, “Is it okay?”

Robin narrowed his eyes and jumped to his feet. “Look--”

Clark twitched back away from him nervously. “I’m sorry. I made you angry.”

He looked so confused, so obviously unaware of the insult that Robin sighed and said, “It’s all right. Here.” He held out his hand and Clark touched him, so softly he barely felt it. He rubbed a little, the barest ghost of a touch, and smiled. “I thought you might feel a little different. You don’t. But it’s still nice.” He smiled up shyly at Robin.

Robin saw the smile was genuine, sweet, even and tried not to be angry. “Oh? Did you?”

“Yes, you’re so beautiful. What a pretty color.” He was animated now, excited again. “I’ve seen some of the fighters, other fighters. They’re a pretty color too, but I never get to touch them. Well, not like this. Hitting isn’t touching.” He frowned. “I’m—I don’t really like hitting all that much.”

Robin listened to him with mounting horror. What the fuck was going on?

He heard a cough at the doorway and looked up.

“Ray! I’ll be damned, Ray Conner!” He jumped up and hugged the former driver. “What the heck are you doing here? Are you--” his voice dropped. “Are you working for him too?”

Ray nodded, his face was bright red, and his eyes were glistening. Robin remembered a hair too late what had been said when they’d last seen each other. He felt acutely uncomfortable; and backed away as soon as was polite--afraid he’d caused Ray some pain. He didn’t want to hurt him—Ray was a heck of a good guy. “Are you…okay here, Ray?”

Ray laughed shakily. “Hey, I’m fine. I see you met your project. He’s a good kid. He needs your help. AJ’s trying to do something good, Robin. He really is.”

Robin sighed. “Yeah well, guilt will make you do that.” He looked at Clark, who was smiling at the doorway, eyes trained over Ray’s shoulder. A big good-looking guy was standing behind Ray. His eyes were cold and searching. Robin could see he was trying to get some measure of him. “Hi,” he said. “I’m Robin Wald.”

“Philip Knight.” The guy was giving him nothing. Robin nodded. He was loyal to this caged kid, that much was obvious. This Philip guy looked to Ray, checking out his reaction to Robin—probably gauging Ray’s behavior as a cue to his own. Ray didn’t notice.

“AJ wants you to help Clark out of the cage.”

“He does? But I thought…” Robin looked at the cage and felt a moment of guilt. He’d been so ready to believe that Lex would do something like this….

Ray shook his head. “This is his dad’s idea of a good time. AJ wants you to…help fix him.”

Philip frowned and stepped into the all ready crowded space and Robin noticed Clark begin to look a little panicky. “Who the fuck is AJ?” he growled.

Robin watched Clark. “AJ…it’s an old name for Lex. Your boss. And don’t curse in front of the kid.”

Ray and Philip both snorted. “Kid?” Philip sneered. “ He’s hardly a kid—he’s--”

Robin stressed, “He’s a kid. My student.” Clark’s head came up sharply and he stared at Robin, wonder in his eyes. “You’ll respect both of us, if you don’t mind.”

Ray sighed. “Robin, obviously AJ—Lex--didn’t tell you everything. Or anything, looks like. Let’s get dinner, and me and Philip, we’ll fill in the blanks. Clark, you want to turn in?”

Clark nodded but his eyes were on Robin, returning his scrutiny. He smiled and softly wished them good night.

Robin thought how amazing it was that he seemed to be a good kid—he had the feeling what he was about to learn was going to turn his stomach.

 

Robin sat back and stared at the table. “Damn. I wish I didn’t know about this.”

“AJ—damn it—Lex didn’t want you to know all that—but I think probably to protect you, not himself or—his dad. But you need to know everything about this kid, you know? And he really is a good kid, I promise. It’s just that…well, he doesn’t know how to act. He only knows what he’s been taught. Be patient, and expect really strange behavior. Really strange.”

Philip blushed hard and choked a bit. “Yeah.”

Ray patted his shoulder, and Philip blushed harder. Robin watched--he wasn’t sure, but it was possible that Phil had a little crush kind of thing on Ray, and Ray was totally oblivious to it.

“Okay, than I have a big job. Look…I don’t k now what he thinks is going to happen, I’m not a therapist, or a teacher—hell, I’m a bodyguard.” He laughed bitterly. “Not even that, I’m a damn security guard now. I’m a big glorified hall monitor.”

Ray smirked. “I’ve seen some of those middle schoolers—I’d be afraid.”

Robin shook his head and sighed. “And by the way—that cage has got to go. If he wants that boy out of there, you’ve got tot get rid of it. He needs a proper bedroom. Some kind of normalcy.”

Philip looked upset. “You don’t understand. It’s all he knows, He won’t leave it at night. It’s like security. We tell him he can come and go as he pleases but he won’t leave it.”

“Well, guys, be prepared to do a lot of handholding. It’s got to go.”

 

 

Clark cried when they started to take the cage apart. He almost hyperventilated, whining as the walls of the cage room were carefully broken to pieces and taken out of the apartment. He paced and groaned and jittered, nearly pulled Bear to bits until Lex grabbed Robin by his shirt front and asked him did he have any fucking idea what he was doing and Robin looked a little panicked, but assured him it was for the best, he was doing the right thing.

Philip finally grabbed Clark and forced him into what was to be his room and made him sit down on the bed there. “Look, this is your room now, you see? You have a bed and a closet, and look, a bookcase…Lex put books in it for you. See? There are more books by Lois Lowery, cool hunh?”

That caught Clark’s attention, and after a bit, Philip managed to get him to explore the room, and the bathroom shared by the other bedroom.

Clark stopped and thought, out loud. “This is Ray’s room. What is Ray going to do? I can’t take his room.” Clark started to get upset again. “Ray’s my best friend—I don’t want to take it from him!”

Philip was stung—and felt like a fool at the same time. What did it matter what the kid thought? He and Ray were both grown men. He didn’t need to be some kid’s best friend, for God’s sake.

Clark turned to him and smiled as if reading his mind “You’re more than my friend,” he said. “You’re special. You help make everything better for me.” Clark blushed and Philip felt warm, happy and very pleased. Clark walked over and hugged him, and before Philip could move, kissed him. It was innocent enough, closed mouth and soft, but it made him almost instantly hard. Clark noticed and rocked against him.

“If you want to do it, that would be nice,” he said. “I’d like for you to touch my penis,” Clark blushed.

Philip coughed and gasped out, “Oh, Clark, I don’t—I think that’s not a good idea…I know for sure Lex wouldn’t like it.”

Clark looked puzzled. “Are you sure? I don’t think he knows I’m here sometime.” Clark sat on the bed and Philip sat next to him and patted his knee.

“Oh, he does he certainly knows you’re here, trust me.”

 

There was a knock at the door and Philip looked at his watch, “Hey, it’s almost lunchtime, you ready?”

Clark nodded, and stretched and yawned. He’d been curled on the bed, Bear under his head, and listening to Philip read him a story, one of the books Lex let him have. He sat up on the bed, and Philip rolled upright too.

The door opened and Ray walked in. “Hey guys, it’s lunchtime, lets go. And they’ve stopped tearing stuff up for the day, Clark…you okay?”

Clark nodded and jumped up.

Ray told him to go to Lex’s office; he was having lunch with Lex.

Clark’s eyes opened wide. “Really? Just Lex?”

Ray laughed s a little. “Yeah, just you and the boss. He wants to talk to you about today, all right?’

Clark looked a little puzzled. It didn’t really matter what he wanted but Clark thought it was nice that Ray asked him anyway.

 

Philip looked up at Ray when Clark left and sighed. “This is going to be…hard.”

Ray sat down on the edge of the bed and nodded. “Yeah—I’ve seen stuff like this before-- you try to control some aspect of your life when nothing else is in your control and you form attachments to things, talk yourself into believing you need it… He’s young and that’s good, but.” He shrugged. “He’s really messed up. I can’t see him ever being on his own.”

Philip felt a wash of sorrow for Clark. “What kind of people would give their kid to a monster like that?”

“I don’t know—but I’d love to have a few minutes alone with them.” He looked fierce and for a moment, almost as dangerous as Clark

“Yeah.” He put his hand on Ray’s shoulder. Left it here.

Ray turned to him. “Lex said something the other day. About you. Something not very nice.”

“Um, yeah.” Philip blushed deep red. “I did—something wrong. With.” He coughed. “To Clark.” He looked down at his knees. “I never—with a guy—I didn’t want to do anything to hurt him. I still feel horrible about that.”

Ray said, “I see. Well, I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think. Clark, he still trusts you.” He stood and wanted to walk away, but Philip’s hand slipped from his arm to his wrist and closed around it.

“I’m ashamed that I took advantage of Clark—but I’m not ashamed of feeling the way I did. I do.” He looked up finally and caught Ray’s eyes. “I’m not ashamed by that at all.”

Ray sat slowly, and exhaled. “Oh.”

Philip reached out and pulled him close, and Ray slid a hand behind his neck. “Stop me if I do something you don’t want.” Philip looked a little frightened but nodded, and Ray kissed him, gently, giving Philip room to move, to escape. He groaned, and grabbed the edges of Ray’s shirt. “Just kiss me, okay…just…”

Ray pushed him back, gently, slowly, kissing him to distract Philip from what he was doing, how he was unbuttoning his shirt, and opening his fly, a slow motion strip tease that made Ray shake as he move, and Philip had no idea what it was doing to him. He lay back, and let Ray explore all of him, calluses scraping over his nipples, his chest, belly—it was familiar, but so strange, strong rough fingers where he’d only ever experienced soft, delicate…it was perfect. It was good because it was Ray—it was better because it was Ray. It seemed like forever before they were both naked, and Philip was trembling in anticipation, and a little fear….

“God…” Ray breathed out, more of a groan than a word, and slid his hands around to cup Philip’s ass, squeeze it and raise it. He pushed against him, and Philip’s dick rose between them. He grinned at him, and kissed him again. “I’m going to suck you—you okay with that?”

“Oh yeah,” Ray gasped out, “Completely.”

“Wait--” He turned Philip, eased him to his side. He kissed Philip’s hip and said, “We can do it together.” He took him in his mouth, and Philip quivered from head to toe, kissed the tip of Ray’s dick, swirled his tongue over it and let it slide past his lips. He slammed his eyes shut and tried not to freak—his dick was in Ray’s mouth, Ray’s in his, hot and wet, and it…tasted so good. Felt so good, warm and full on his tongue—he couldn’t stop licking, working his tongue around him. The head felt so warm and smooth and he wanted to swallow it down as far as he could—he gagged a little, and drooled a lot-- but Ray moaned like it was the best blowjob he’d ever had. Between the noise Ray made, and the slick wet suction around his dick, he was trembling on the edge of orgasm before it seemed possible—he’d never come this fast with any of the girls he’d been with. Fuck, he’d never felt this free or this hot before.

His body felt on fire, he was drenched, and dizzy, and he couldn’t stop trying to suck Ray’s dick as far as he could into his throat—he came, so suddenly he couldn’t do anything except shake. Ray groaned long and loud around his dick, and he twisted his hip, it made his dick slip a little further into his throat, and the sensation must have been right—he yelled out Philip’s name and jerked and all Philip could do was hold him tight and swallow.

 

Ray pulled slowly away, jerking a little as aftershocks hit him, making Philip grin, and lick his softening dick. Ray held him off when Philip tried to take him back in his mouth.

“No—no, wait, wait a little…shit. That was, you were amazing.” He reached out and cupped Philip’s cheek. You are amazing.”

Philip felt a blush burn up into his face. No, I’m not. But thank you anyway. That was really wonderful for me. I…I… thanks.”

Ray laughed and pushed him a little. “Come on, let’s get dressed I’m starving.”

 

Lex was waiting for Clark in his sitting room. He was at a table set with linen, china, and crystal, music played in the background. Clark hesitated when he entered—it was a lot like dinners with Lionel…did that mean? Hope flared for an instant before dimming. Things usually didn’t happen the way he thought they would, most times, they ended badly.

Lex got up and seated him sit at the table, and then, began to explain what was on the table. He didn’t sit—he walked around the table pointing out various items, their use, their names.

It was a lesson, Clark realized, with a sharp stab of disappointment. Lex was teaching him what to do if he ever ate with people. That was kind of him. Lex looked pleased, as if he were enjoying himself. Clark smiled. It was very nice to see Lex smile. It made him glow, made him even more beautiful.

When he was finally satisfied that Clark would remember what he was taught, he sat and told Clark that every day, he was going to have lessons. Very soon, no one would know that Clark hadn’t had a normal life.

Clark felt little flashes of memory during some parts of lunch, memories of a red-headed woman, and setting the table, just the way Lex described, but with fewer bits of silverware. He shook his head. Those thoughts were distracting and useless, hey made his stomach hurt.

Lex shook out the napkin and folded it across his lap, and Clark followed suit. “Did you like the new bookcases, Clark?”

“Yes.” Clark stared at the table. “Will Lionel let me keep them? Will he let me keep the room?”

“Yes, he will, because I said so.” Lex sounded so confident, that Clark believed him…mostly.

They ate, and Clark found it impossible to keep his eyes from Lex. Lex smiled back, another free, happy smile, one that spread through Clark’s body like wine. He blushed, and Lex blushed and then, suddenly he stood and threw his napkin on the table.

Clark, can I--do you want to come to bed with me?

Clark gasped and nodded—yes, yes. Always yes.

Lex took his hand, and pulled him gently to the bedroom, and Clark looked about with awe. This was Lex’s bedroom…so different than when Lionel used it.

The deep dark purple and brown of the furniture, the linens made the room feel warm, and the thick comforter on the high, big bed made Clark want to throw himself into it. He was sure he’d sink into it like a cloud, a Lex scented cloud. The smell…all around him was the scent of spice, and Lex, so many shades and flavors of Lex. He groaned, harder than he could ever remember being, happy, nervous—he wanted Lex to be happy too.

Lex walked him backwards to the bed, unbuttoning his shirt as he did, pulling it down over his arms, undoing the snap of his pants, they slid down with Lex’s hands smoothing over his skin, and he never knew it could be a good thing to take your clothes off—and then, Lex took his off too, handing each piece to him. It was a wonderful thing to take your clothes off, he thought in awe. Wonderful.

Clark took the clothing, pressing each item to his nose, and folding it carefully to set aside. When every piece was folded, and set on the end of the bed, Lex prowled up Clark’s body, gently pushing him flat, to lay down on him. Clark thought he was going to die, Lex was everywhere, pure, strong, filling his pores, his mouth, as well as his nose. Clark quivered, parted his lips to breathe, the tip of his tongue sliding to see-could he taste him-- Lex pounced on him, taking his mouth, parting his lips more with his tongue, kissing until Clark moaned aloud. Kisses, so sweet, so soft, and Lex’s penis was hard, warm against his belly—this was a wonderful thing, kissing, it was different than any he’d ever had. It was—right. Clark lost himself in the buzz and warmth of kisses, the plush feel of lips against his, he pressed the little scar on Lex’s mouth and felt it slip between his teeth. Lex moaned in his ear, breath tickling him as he groaned clothes off, god, we need to be naked, now!

Clark chuckled and let Lex pull off the rest of his clothes, the collar swung under his fingers, the chain whipped about in his desire to have Clark naked as fast as he could.

Clark shook and moaned, his happiness almost complete, forced out the thought that Lex didn’t take the chain or the collar off, but that didn’t matter, what mattered was his slim cool hand, teasing his foreskin, fingers rolling the slip of skin, pulling it down, up and rolling it back, unveiling the red crown, and rubbing the fluid that poured out over his hand, over the head…he arched and quivered—now—now, and he leaned over to take the sensitive head of his penis in his mouth. Clark shouted, tears rolled down his face.

Lex let him slip from his mouth—“not yet”—he kissed him and lifted his legs to either side of his waist. Clark closed his eyes and waited, trembling and feeling as if he was about to fly out of his skin, he waited for the thrust into him, when nothing happened he opened his eyes to see Lex staring at him, eyes wide, and mouth parted. “You’re mine, aren’t you? You want to be mine.”

“Oh yes, I do, I wish…please, come into me, please.”

Lex groaned and slid in, and Clark felt full, and warm, finally…his heart beat wildly for a moment, and then the beat matched Lex’s beat for beat, breath for breath, they pushed together, rode the wave of ecstasy together…Lex began stroking him, and his penis throbbed inside him, it stroked in and out of him, and each stroke sent heat flaring through his body, made his heart swell, the feeling got bigger, and bigger, and hotter, his penis throbbed, and wet so much, and then—he came, waves and waves rising from the very center of him, the feeling of Lex’s penis inside him made him cry, and the flood of heat when he came inside him made him feel alive, and loved and human…for a little bit, it was miraculous. Even when Lex yanked him closer with a hand wrapped around his collar, it felt like a miracle.

 

When Lionel came back from Japan, the first thing he did was call Lex to him.

“I missed you son.” Lionel cocked and eyebrow at him and smiled. “How did business go while I was gone?” Lex heard it as ‘did you destroy my carefully crafted business, did you run my money maker into the toilet, you idiot.’

“Fine. Everything is fine—I brought everything with me…” He fumbled the discs in his hands, and clutched at the files that threatened to drop to the floor. He reached up and jammed a few fingers into the knot of his too tight tie.

Lionel smiled. “Sure, son, sure.” He held out his hand and took the proffered items and let his fingers slide across his hand. Lex shivered. His hand was too hot and too dry, the skin felt too soft, thin….

Lex wanted to hurt him so terribly bad, wanted to smack the smile off his face. “Can I go now? I’m tired—it’s been a long day, I’m sure you’re ready for sleep as well.”

Lionel chuckled. “Certainly. Right you are. Lex…you’re dismantling the cage.”

Lex stood a little straighter and jammed his hands into his pants pockets. Smirked and answered, “I saw no point to it. And you did say I had complete control over all the fighters, am I correct?”

Lionel leaned back in his chair and raised his eyebrows, looked Lex in the eye and drawled, “Certainly you had that…still do. I never said he had to stay in the cage. Clark always had a choice. Choices are what makes life interesting, am I right?” Lionel smiled and nodded. “You’ve changed a bit. I thought you would. Continue running the fights. You’re doing an adequate job.”

He looked up, expressionless, studying Lex. Lex’s fingers drifted over to his tie, patted the bit of purple silk in his pocket. “By the way, you did an acceptable job laying groundwork for the Japanese merger as well. Everything fell into place as I wished and I’m pleased.”

He stood and came around the desk and Lex panicked, froze. No. Lionel leaned on an arm against his desk and smiled. “You didn’t embarrass me. That’s good.” He drew long fingers over his zipper, over the growing bulge under the dove gray wool fabric of his trousers. “I’m giving you the fights to run permanently.”

Lex felt his throat closing up, his mouth was dry and his tongue felt stiff. He nodded, and wanted to back up, but he couldn’t break the gaze his father had on him.

“Come here.”

He took a single step and stopped.

“Come here,” he said again and pulled his zipper down. “Show me gratitude.”

Lex closed his eyes swallowed and stepped closer. He felt his dad’s fingers, thin and dry, hard as bone, close around his head, push him slowly to his knees. He felt wool, and heat, Lionel’s finger on his lip, pulling his mouth open. “Go on.”

 

Afterward, as Lex stood and walked to the apartment door, Lionel said quietly, “Send Clark up, will you?”

“Of course.” He said and hoped none of the ice that was stabbing under his ribs showed in his face. He turned and walked out of the room, he was certain he heard low laughter.

 

Clark was nearly exploding—part of him wanted to go to Lionel immediately and part of him wanted to run far away. Lionel—Robin said that he had a right to make decisions. He told him that, but he didn’t tell him how to do it.

Lex…Lex had been so kind to him. Being with Lex had felt like he was making his own decision, like he’d chosen to lay down with him and touch him until he came, like it was his choice to let himself be filled that way. Whether he was making a decision or not didn’t matter, it was Lex, whom he’d waited for, it felt like a lifetime, waited for to make him whole. Being with Lex was being a real person.

He turned the book Philip had given him over in his hand. Robin said that the boy in the book made a choice and it wasn’t an easy one, it was even a painful decision but…how was Clark supposed to do that? He had no place to go. There was no land faraway that he could go to. He had no one else except Lionel. Lex he longed for with all his might, but Lionel…he belonged to.

Lionel was waiting….

 

Lex sat at his desk and smoked cigarette after cigarette, filling the ashtray, covering the surface of the desk with ash, dripping liquor across it as he gulped straight bourbon…he laughed. Clark had run out of the apartment, practically panting for it. If he’d had a tail, he’d have wagged it. Fucker. He giggled and tipped the glass back, slopping alcohol over the front of his shirt, splashing the desktop. Oops! He put the cigarette in the corner of his mouth and yanked off his tie, trying to clean the top and smeared wet ash around. He threw the tie down and laughed again. He very, very carefully set the glass down, entirely concentrated on the task, muttering to himself as he did.

He stood and wandered around the office, thought about calling Robin, calling Ray.

He threw himself down on the couch. Everyone was out. He’d sent Philip and Ray out earlier with orders not to come back and then, had sat down to seriously and thoroughly drink himself into unconsciousness.

He wasn’t anywhere near that when Lionel called on him to pick Clark up. Lex felt sick. He didn’t think Clark would be back tonight. Fuck, fuck, fuck…He staggered to his feet. Here I go.

 

Clark was ruffled and crumpled, he smelled like sex—like sweat and come, he was red-faced and there were bruises visible on his wrists, his neck. A necklace of bruises right under the collar worked their way down…in the open vee of his shirt he saw more. Clark’s eyes were red; he kept them trained on the floor.

Lex nudged his foot with his. “Had a good time?”

Clark was quiet. Lex nudged harder. “I asked you a question.”

Clark dropped his head more, his hair swung down to cover his face. He nodded, and Lex laughed.

“Yeah? What did he do—you look a little chewed up.” A tremor shook Clark and Lex kicked his foot. Hard. “Tell me what you did.”

“Tell me.” The elevator door opened and Lex pushed him out, and Clark gave him a shocked look, staggered forward into the room.

Lex heard a tiny metallic click. He stopped Clark and turned him around. There was blood on his shirt and Lex lifted the hem…blood ran down his chest in thin rivulets and Lex saw that he had rings through his nipples, rings with little green gems winking from them…he touched them and Clark jerked, moaned.

“He—he said you could take them out…please?”

“Why? Why should I, they’re pretty.” Lex grinned and pulled at the rings. Clark groaned.

“It hurts…”

Lex pushed him back into his bedroom, talking, non-stop, more to himself than to Clark. “You’re marked, he marked you—why shouldn’t I do it too? You’re his—I don’t care. He took everything from me—you –I’m taking you…hurt you, hate you….”

He slammed Clark against a wall, and yanked at his pants. “Off--take your things off.”

Clark shuddered, and quickly took his clothes off. He tried to fold them but Lex ripped them out of his hand and threw them on the floor. Lex said, “He’ll buy you new clothes. Now get on the bed.”

Clark climbed up onto the bed and Lex said, “Lay down, spread your arms and legs. Now.”

Clark did so and Lex shook. God damn, he was beautiful. He was amazing. Even bruised and bleeding, he was incredible. His dick began to fill and Clark dropped his eyes and bit his lip

Lex walked around the bed, staring at him, licking his lips and smiling at Clark. Clark shuddered. “Turn over, on your knees.”

Clark turned quickly as he could, and Lex shoved his face down into the pillows, and yanked at the chain until the chip was in his hand. Clark shivered and Lex could tell he was trying to be still. He laughed. “You’re so fucking obedient, just like a fucking collie.” He leaned over and barked in Clark’s ear. Clark didn’t move, the tiniest whimper leaked up from the pillow.

He put his hand on the skin right above Clark’s cleft, and pushed down. He was painfully hard now, his dick dipping hard and rising to his stomach when he pushed a finger inside Clark. He grimaced; Clark was wet, and loose, come dripped from his hole when he pulled his finger out. Lex wiped his hand on Clark’s back and when he sobbed, he hit him.

“Bitch, whore, slut…” he hit him, and cursed him and ignored the gagging sobs and hopeless moans. He slammed into him, immediately fucking him hard and grinding the stone into his skin, cursing—hating himself so much, hating everything about himself, he hated himself….

He pulled out and pushed the chip inside and while Clark screamed, jerked himself off. He screwed his eyes shut, and desperately willed himself to come. He managed to spill across Clark’s back and dropped his head, gasping and shaking. He pulled the chip free.

Clark shuddered and groaned, his skin shivered and twitched, but he didn’t move.

Lex got up, and nearly ran to the bathroom. He was on the floor and shoving his head into the toilet, threw up violently. He gagged and retched until his stomach felt crushed and empty, his face was running wet with sweat and his eyes burned behind his closed lids.

He had no idea how long he sat curled in on himself on the floor, before he finally stood and rinsed his mouth, brushed his teeth to try and rid himself of the awful acidic taste.

When he walked out to the bedroom, Clark was still in position, on his elbows and knees. His thighs were streaked with blood and come, his back was coated in streaks of come, and every so often, a slow shudder would rock him. He was quiet.

“Fuck,” Lex screamed. “Move, do something—hit me!” He ran to Clark and yanked him around to face him. “Hit me—hit me!”

Clark shook his head, his face was wet with tears and Lex yelled, “Get out, go to bed—just—get out.”

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

“You gonna bark all day little doggy, or are you gonna bite?"

- Mr. Blonde "Reservoir Dogs"

 

Clark ran, Lex’s words filling his head, pounding in his head. He went to what was left of the cage room and threw himself on the floor. The bed was gone, the trunk was gone and he had a new bed, a room, a door, a bookshelf all his own. He had a rug and pillows and blankets…and right now all he wanted was Bear and his cot.

He sobbed, he couldn’t even take a shower because no one was in, no one except Lex. Clark felt a deep ripping stab of sorrow and…something else, some thing that felt hot and sharp and made him want to be in the pit.

He sat up and wiped his face. Robin said…Robin said he could make choices, on his own. If that was true…than he chose to take a shower.

He stood and hesitated at the open wall of the cage. He shuddered, and swallowed, felt the collar ride up as he did. He shouldn’t. He wasn’t supposed to. A shiver washed over him and he shook his head. He growled. One step forward, one more, and before he knew it he was in the shower room.

It took him a few seconds to understand the controls and he found the wash and the shampoo—he thought for a second, realizing that if he washed all the smell would be gone. His eyes watered, and hurt and then the sharp hot thing in his chest got bigger. He turned on the water, as hot as he could stand it, and poured wash over his skin. He scrubbed every inch, scrubbed until it almost hurt. He glanced up and saw the camera—for the first time, he really saw the camera.

Robin told him every day, ‘There are always choices Clark, big and little.’ Today, he made choices, he chose to shower because he wanted one—and now, he was going to choose to kill the camera. He walked to the corner of the room, reached up and pulled the lens off. There. He smiled. That made the hot thing less painful.

 

In the morning, Robin worked with him, helping him to be more like people. Normally Clark loved it, it was like going to school—but today, he had questions that maybe Robin couldn’t answer.

Robin seemed disappointed to see him sitting in what was left of the cage, and frowned. He frowned even more when Clark asked him the question he’d been thinking about all night.

“Does Lex love me?” he asked.

Robin hesitated. “Well, he wants to help you become your own person. He cares.”

Clark stared at Robin. He was lying about Lex---what if he was lying about—everything? What if all the people around him were lying all the time. How would he know? Clark felt his heart speed up. Maybe it was okay to lie to him since he wasn’t a person…Clark’s head pounded. He knew some things, and he knew that those things were true. He knew about love—he knew if from his book.

He knew that what Lionel and Lex did to him was not love. There was no love, not for Clark, who had nothing, not even a name. Not for a boy named for a dog.

 

Lex kept distance between himself and Clark for a few days, tried to minimize contact with him at the pit. He had no idea what to say, how to begin to apologize for what he’d done. He had no idea if it was even possible to apologize, so he’d taken the coward’s way out again. He’d avoided Clark, had kept busy at the MAC and…elsewhere.

In his own way, Clark seemed to be avoiding him as well. He hadn’t reacted to him at all, not when their paths crossed, not on the ride to the Mac…it was as if Clark was somewhere far away. Hiding. Lex bit at his thumb, worried it painfully. It was his fault. He’d done a terrible thing to Clark. What if…what if he never came back? What if Clark left him alone with his dad….

He watched the bare, broad back in front of him; sweat gleaming on his shoulders, his hair curling against the nape of his neck. Clark was still, head down, unmoving…closed down and wrapped inside himself. Ray looked a little on edge, glancing back and forth from Clark to the crowd around the pit, and Philip, as usual, faced resolutely away from the pit, staring back towards the door they’d come through. The pit handlers stood around Clark, talking, laughing, not really paying attention to him. The crowd murmured and yelled occasionally as the fight ahead of them drew to an end. A loud shriek rising above the roar of the crowd let them know it was time and the pit master beckoned them forward.

Lex looped his fingers under the collar and pulled Clark’s head down, Clark looked at him from under the hair falling over his forehead, growled low enough that only Lex heard. Lex was startled, and Clark curled his lip--stood still as Lex took the chain off, unlatched the collar. He waited, eyes closed, for the effect of the stone to wear off—quicker than thought, he reached out and grabbed Lex’s wrist.

“Run…” he whispered, and was gone in the blink of an eye.

Lex jerked around towards Ray, and Ray was watching the pit, mouth open and face gone pale. The complete silence of the crowd finally registered on him.

He heard a chuckle and edged towards the pit.

Clark was walking around and around the agitated fighter in the pit. No matter which way he lunged, Clark wasn’t there. He laughed quietly, feinted and danced around the other man, driving him to a frenzy. Finally, he stopped and let the man attack him with a roar. He leaped at Clark, he howled, his arms swung, he tried to grapple with him and Clark broke his wrist. And then, broke his arm, and then, his shoulder. He broke his kneecap with a kick, it popped with a wet crack, broke his shin and the other screamed as bones pushed through the skin. The drugs kept the man from passing out, kept him awake and aware of each snap of bone. Screams faded and became sobbing, moaning, begging for release, as Clark worked bit by bit on the body…the crowd was soundless, and Lex could hear Clark talking to himself. He watched him peel back the skin over the fighter’s chest, and put his hand into it, carefully take it apart with a look of intense concentration. Intestines spilled when he opened him to the crotch and at that point even the drug they shot the fighters with couldn’t keep him conscious.

Clark looked up and caught Lex’s eyes. Stood legs apart, opened his pants and jerked off over the bloody shape on the floor. A last grunt and come spattered on what was essentially a corpse and the crowd went insane, the roof shook with their roars. Ray looked green, Philip closed his eyes and stared at the door--he refused to look. Lex vomited over the lip of the pit.

His eyes were streaming, but he still saw the scene from hell all too clearly--knew it was his fault. He staggered to his feet—he’d told him to run…he took a step back and stopped. Shrugged. Hell, he’d said it before, if Clark wanted him dead….

Clark landed lightly on the edge, and came straight for him, his eyes were blazing, but it seemed only Lex noticed. The guards around him waited, some grinning, some bored, it was the same after every match—the freak came out of the hole excited, no big deal. This had just been a better show than most.

Before anyone realized this time was not exactly the same as other times, he’d planted a blood and come slicked palm in the middle of Lex’s chest and pushed, hard. Lex flew backward, bowling over guards and spectators and Clark walked on, angry, radiating menace and was almost at the doors before one of the guards managed to climb over the tangle of people and struck him behind the knees with a baton. He crumbled to the ground, and the other guards were on him, he was hit again and again before Ray got to him, put the collar on, protected him.

Lex got up, clutching the middle of his chest, gasping for breath around the jagged pain. “Leave him the fuck alone,” he shouted, “we’ve got it under control--leave him.” Fuck. They were in deep shit now. Lionel was bound to have a fit. There were pieces of the guy everywhere down there. Clark had acted monstrously, purposely…Lionel was going to loose it.

Lex looked around and was startled. There was no underestimating the blood lust of the supposedly civilized. The crowd seemed to love it, watching Clark dismember the other fighter, they’d been silent as the grave, he’d been certain they were shocked senseless, horrified. But now…they were screaming, calling Clark’s name—wanting more blood. Bastards.

 

“I just got reports on yesterday’s event—what happened?” Lionel swung the desk chair to face Lex, a thoughtful frown on his face.

“I don’t know. He just—got weird.”

“He just got weird? Are you twelve? That’s your opinion on what happened?” Lionel got up and paced. “Not that the…display…bothered the clientele in the least, in fact they enjoyed it. They had no idea what danger they were in.” Lionel frowned at Lex and went back to his chair, sat and leaned back, studying him. “What do you think you’re doing to Clark? What do you think you’re going to end up with? Clark’s not human, you know.”

“What?” He gulped and loosened his tie a bit. “Not human--” his voice went dry, “Do you mean…”

“It took work, careful work, to turn him into my dog. And you want to ruin it. Why? Do you think he’s going to be grateful? He doesn’t know anything else. He’s the pet of anyone strong enough to be his master and you…” Lionel shook his head.

“You said—you said I had charge of him. You said he didn’t have to be in the cage. “

“I said he didn’t have to be in it. I thought you’d be smart enough to see he needed to be in the cage. And now it’s gone. How are you going to put him back in the cage?” Lionel swung his chair to face the windows. “I think I have a solution. Send him in. you can go back to the apartment. I’ll call for you later.”

Lex stood quickly, swallowing and swallowing. The dryness wouldn’t go away, the tie was too tight, and his neck hurt. “Right away.”

He left and was already calling for Philip to bring Clark to Lionel’s office. He was in his own office before Clark left the apartment.

 

“He hurt you, didn’t he?” Lionel asked, and Clark was silent, eyes fixed on the floor. Answer me.”

Clark looked up and shook his head.

Lionel raised an eyebrow. “No? No, he didn’t hurt you or no, you won’t answer me?” He smiled when Clark looked confused, trying to figure out how to answer and not actually speak. He turned red when he realized Lionel was laughing at him.

“I had something made for you on my trip.” Lionel got up and came toward him, and Clark noticed he had a little gray box in his hand. Clark started to back up—gifts were bad…Lionel opened the box and Clark gasped and fell to his knees.

“Do you like it? The characters mean beloved pet. You are, you know. Here…” He clasped a thumbnail sized disc of green carved stone to the collar and smiled as he sat back. “I love you, Clark.”

Clark looked at him through a fresh haze of pain. His stomach cramped and he shook his head.

“I love you Clark. And Lex hurt you. But don’t worry; I’ll make it better. Tonight, I’ll fix it all for you.” He smiled gently and stroked Clark’s sweat wet hair. Clark whined, and shivered, dropped to his knees.

“I know how to make you happy.”

Lex stood in the middle of his room, thinking….

He slid the lilac tie through and around his fingers, enjoying the smooth feel—he thought about how nice his childhood had been compared to the life he was living now--and laughed out loud. God—who’d ever think that he’d look back on that fucked up stew of abuse and neglect with nostalgia? He was still chuckling when he looped the end of the tie over a hook in his closet and started to tie the other end around his neck. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and tried knotting the end around his throat with numb fingers.

Who would miss him? Robin? Sure, yeah, why not--the guy whose family he’d threatened--or Ray, the guy who thought he was a whore and worse?

Maybe Philip—he’d only ruined his life completely, sure he’d miss him…Clark? He might be wrong but he was pretty certain Clark was going to kill him when he got the chance…maybe Dad would miss him. Maybe, when he got bored and needed to rip the wings off of something.

Lex reached up to pull the knot tight on the hook…reached up and yanked on the silk and for a moment, red pinwheels bloomed under his lids and then…

Fuck. No. He ripped open the knot and threw the tie and kicked a hole in the wall. “Fuck no. Fuck no. I must be a damn idiot! If I go--I’m taking every one with me.”

He was breathing so hard his ribs heaved, and he stalked to the door. He was going up there and taking Clark back and then, maybe throwing that old bastard over the balcony, no—no, that was too quick--whatever he was going to do to him, it was going to hurt. It was going to be loud and messy and hurt like a mother fucker and—and--maybe Clark would want to help….

Lex yanked open his bedroom door. His dad and two of his personal bodyguard stood outside the door. One lifted a gun, barrel pointed at Lex and his dad said,” Hello, son.” Lex felt a punch to his chest and an icy pain spread out from the punch…he looked down and saw a dart protruding from his chest. “Hey—damn it,” he managed before falling flat into night.

Lex woke up face up and staring at a ceiling. There were pipes and girders and cable snaking over them all, and he realized he was at the MAC. In fact, he was in the pit.

Weird, he thought. It’s clean but you can still smell blood, and the painted concrete was cold. And slightly rubbery, he mused as he dug nails into the surface. He debated moving…obviously he’d have to move soon. His father’s sense of humor was remarkably basic for a man who prided himself on moving beyond his roots. This little stunt of his was on par with shoving a caterpillar into an ant’s nest.

He listened and heard asthmatic breathing—not him—and whirled to his side not a minute too soon. The heavy boots of the other fighter landed, with an unbelievably loud crack, where his head had been. As soon as he moved, Lex felt a ridiculously overwhelming flood of well-being, a feeling of invincibility filled him-–he couldn’t be hurt, he was immortal and indestructible and…fuck—so fucking drugged up—he shook his head and fought to control the feeling. Okay, focus, remember how to direct the feeling…he babbled to himself and watched the circling fighter…suicide. He grinned to himself. What the fuck had he been thinking? He should have known Dad was going to kill him eventually—all he’d had to do was wait for the day. And surprise! He fought back giggles. Wish he could see the next time Dad tried to fuck Clark…should be interesting.

He dodged and weaved as he thought and then, the fighter kicked out and connected.

A flash of pain shot up his side and exploded in his chest—the drug worked to dull it but it still rocked him, hurt him. He twisted out of reach and was punched in the back, and kicked again, stars looped in his eyesight but the drug made it seem funny. He caught sight of the other guy smiling at him and…did he have filed teeth…Lex hoped that it was just for intimidation, and giggled.

Right.

He managed to hit the other once or twice, once a solid hit to the nose and blood flew everywhere before he got smacked into a wall. He hit with a bone-jarring thump, vibrated from head to toe. He heard a crack, and his arm exploded into sharp edged pain. Damn it. He was dead now, he could barely hold him off with two arms let alone one…the other came running at him and he leaned against the wall and waited. Death was coming at him, bloody faced and irritatingly brainless. He never pictured quite so stupid a death—anger flared, seared him with it’s intensity, and the fighter hit the wall hard as his defenseless prey dropped under him.

The fighter was stunned and Lex’s deeply ingrained school yard reflexes took over—he took advantage of his momentary reprieve, came up behind the groggy fighter and kicked him in the neck with every ounce of strength he had.

He was as shocked as the crowd when he heard a crack and the fighter slumped over.

What the fuck…he survived? He looked down at the dead man stupidly. He was still alive, still breathing and the other guy was dead? This wasn’t happening. There was no way—the crowd roared and brought him back to himself. He looked up to the edge of the pit and saw his dad looking down at him with a speculative smile.

He might have to rethink that suicide thing.

He was back in the apartment, bruised, still more than a little high, and alive. That was the most miraculous thing—he couldn’t believe he survived that shit. He felt so fucking alive, so grateful to be breathing because now he was going to use it. Make sure he came out on top.

He called his staff together and was pacing, jittering, drinking, as they came in. He grinned up at them as they settled around the room.

Ray stared at him. “What the fuck happened to you--”

Lex laughed. He knew what a sight he was. He was bruised and dirty from head to toe, one eye was nearly closed, his lip was ripped through at the corner, he was purple and yellow all down one side of his chest and he was crisscrossed with small cuts and raw spot… “Fuck this—most of it will be gone by tomorrow or the next day,” he laughed, and drank. He was buzzing and floating at the same time and he felt…invincible. He gulped a quick swallow and hissed as the liquor stung him—when the drugs wore off, he was going to pay for this. “I spent a little time getting up close and personal with the entertainment at the MAC…”

Philip gaped. “You were in the pit? Clark—“

Lex made a cutting motion, “Not Clark. Lionel.”

Robin glared at him. “Why? What did you do?”

“You’re kidding, right?” Lex gaped, laughed. “You think he punished me for being a bad boy? Am I going to get a lecture on respecting your elders?”

“No, not that…you did something to Clark he didn’t like.”

Lex flushed, deeply ashamed, but chose to ignore Robin. “Well, I ruined his dog—“ He grinned and gulped from the glass in his hands. He rolled it in his palms and the amber liquid turned cloudy and rust colored from blood the motion swirled in it. “But that’s neither here nor there now. First—let me tell you my story—and then, I’m gonna want advice—how can I overthrow Lionel Luthor?” He grinned wide and cheerful.

Clark shuddered helplessly, swallowed, almost gagging on thick saliva as he watched Lionel stalk around the room. He had no idea how long he’d been there, alone for the most part…days, hours….

“The boy is like a rat—a goddamn cockroach. He just won’t die.” He laughed. “He’s my son, that much is clear. Well, he won’t last long. Let him stew for a while and then—into the pit again.”

Clark groaned, a low moan of sound he couldn’t keep behind bleeding lips.

“What’s wrong, Clark? Hurting?”

Clark was kneeling, head to the floor, his legs a solid burning ache under him. The stone was making him sick, sicker than he’d ever been. Every movement, shudder, aching breath, made him want to throw up.

“I don’t want you to worry about not fulfilling your duty to me--Lex took your place tonight.”

Even under the weight of so much pain, Clark was horrified. Lex wasn’t a fighter, he couldn’t survive the pits, not long…it was all his fault. If he hadn’t been so angry none of this would have happened. Hot tears burned his eyes and made his head pound. “Please…please…”

“Please? What would you give, Clark? What would you bargain with?” Lionel laughed. “I own you. He still owns you, Clark, piss poor specimen of a man or not—at least he is a man. Don’t forget that. You’re owned by us.” He yanked Clark to his feet by the thick collar. “Those people sold you to me for the price of a rundown house and some dirt. You are a possession. Understand? Whatever happens to you is under my control. Go home.”

Clark staggered forward and Lionel stopped him and tugged on the nipple rings. “Maybe he’s not as concerned as I thought he might be. Take him back.” He gestured to his men standing at the door and turned away.

Strange men took him to the elevator, and Clark’s stomach rolled and fought—they didn’t let him stop for his clothes. Naked, sweating and close to vomiting, he rode the elevator back to hell.

Hell was everywhere now. He used to think it was just in the pit, because the men called it hell. But he’d come to understand now, that it was in Lionel’s apartment too, and it was because of Lex he knew it was so. Lex had shown him it could be in his apartment too. Hell could follow him anywhere. In the back of his mind he thought that he knew the source of all hells…a yellow house somewhere, surrounded by yellow flowers with brown faces, blue curtains hiding devils behind them.

Hell was in the elevator. The men played with him until the door opened, and all he could do was try not to get sick over Lionel’s possessions.

The door opened and Ray and Philip were standing there. Lex floated up into his view and he wasn’t sure if he were real or not. Lex shouted at him and tried to drag him out of the car, or maybe hit him, he wasn’t sure and then Lex was shouting at him and Philip and Ray were shouting something at the devils from Lionel’s room. The air got thicker and thicker and soon it was too heavy to breathe, it was on fire. He turned to Philip for help, holding out his hand, his heart was calling out for him, Philip would help him. Lex slapped his hand down, and ordered everyone out.

Clark was alone with him, and he tried to find the part of him that had filled with hot sharp anger, and it slipped out of him like water between his fingers. Lex had suffered as well as he had, suffered in the pit out of his mistake. Lex was going to kill him for that…Clark heaved a sobbing breath of relief. “Please.”

“I will, trust me, I will do everything you want.”

The room spun wildly, he closed his eyes and waited for Lex to kill him. Inhaled, and Lionel’s scent filled his nose, and blood and the drug from the pit and vomit and come…he staggered forward, took another step and fell into space.

Light woke him, and something under his back—he was lying down. The collar lay like an iron band on his throat and Lex was standing over him watching him lose the fight for breath. Everything was slipping away, pain, fear--he closed his eyes and waited calmly, all he had left was sorrow. How sad it was that Lex was letting him die, he thought. How sad that he’d never see him again…

He opened his eyes and snorted in shock. He was alive. He was warm. A steady stroking that he realized was a damp washcloth spread heat across his skin. He felt lighter, more awake…the painful rings in his chest were gone and the cloth was washing away traces of blood there. The bracelets were gone…the collar was gone…the chain. The collar was very near still; he could feel it seeking him out, trying to sink it’s claws into him again.

Lex looked down at him. “Are you awake?”

He nodded carefully, waiting for pain that didn’t come.

“Good.” He pushed the sweat soaked hair back from his forehead and Clark closed his eyes. The touch was so soft, so tender…a flickering memory of red hair, and aqua grass dissolved as he tried to reach out for it. Lex spoke on as he stroked Clark’s hair.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything—I’m sorry that you’re…” his voice caught before he went on. “…that you’re afraid of me. You won’t believe this, why should you…I love you.”

Clark opened his eyes, looked up into Lex’s red eyes. Purple shadows under his eyes made them even redder, so red around the edges of his eyelids, they looked raw.

“Change is coming, love, even bigger changes then you’ve lived through so far. You’ll have to be very brave. Because these changes—they might—will hurt you, Clark. They’ve barely begun, and already they’re hurting your friends…” Lex stopped and rubbed viciously at his eyes, but the look he gave Clark was fierce. “That’s change, Clark, sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes the price is…is…awfully big. But sometimes it’s worth it.” Lex got up to wet the cloth again and Clark heard him mutter “God, I hope to fuck it’s worth it.”

Lex gathered the collar and everything else and said, “You’re free. You belong to no one but your self. Do what you want. Your choice, Clark.” He stepped back and looked at Clark, waiting….

“Hello, David. Remember me, Lex Luthor? We worked together on the merger—“

Lex. How could I forget? Not when you went out of your way to make our working …relationship…so unforgettable.

Lex laughed lightly, as if the shit had said something actually amusing and made a face at himself in his mirror. “I’m glad you haven’t forgotten me…actually; I called to ask a favor.”

“A favor? Well…what sort of favor are we talking here? “

I’m setting some plans in motion that I hope will leave me in the driver’s seat, so to speak, at Luthor Corp.”

“Really? That’s blunt. Getting rid of dear old dad are we?”

“Yes.”

There was a moment of silence and then a chuckle. “You always did have a way with words, Lex. Good. I’d rather work with you.

“The sort of work I’ll be doing from now on is much different than what I’ve been doing. In other words no more benefits.”

“Shame. But if it means viciously screwing your old man I’m behind you. Come see me today.”

Lex warned everyone to keep their heads down. He only discussed his plan with Ray, told him that it was the best way to protect Robin and his family from his father. This way—he’d be able to slip him out from under Lionel’s nose. He knew how to work this particular person, he’d dealt with him before. He had no doubt that he’d get what he wanted.

Ray winced as he watched Lex get dressed and Lex laughed. He tucked a square of purple silk into his jacket pocket. “Years too late for that, guy.”

Ray held his shoulder. I’m sorry, AJ, I’m so fucking sorry.”

Lex yanked away from Ray’s hold. “Don’t be. It just means I’m ready for today.” He turned away from Ray’s concern and walked quickly to the elevator. “Watch out for the kid—make sure Robin’s with him.”

 

He was at the office building in an hour, and waiting for Brand in his private office.

David Brand walked in and stopped. “Fuck. What a shame…”

Lex was relaxed on the sage green sofa, the black silk lining of his open coat set off the dove gray trousers and mauve shirt and tie…Lex was presented on his couch like a gift. His head tilted back and he smirked at him, his ankles were crossed and showed off his handmade shoes perfectly. One arm was thrown casually across the back of the couch and the other rested across his chest. He knew what he looked like—he always did.

“Tell me what you want—this favor.”

“I want to know that if Lionel’s out of the picture, you’ll support me—and make sure the others support me too.” He shifted slightly, just enough to keep Brand’s interest. “On a personal note, I need safe passage out of Metropolis for three people. That means your private jet.”

“My jet? Are you going to tell me why you need this?

“It’s for someone I owe heavily. Someone important to me.”

Brand’s eyes lit up with greed. “How important?”

Lex relaxed and both arms were now across the back of the sofa, pulling the shirt tight against his chest. “Very. I would be very grateful for anything you do. This one last time…”

Brand licked his lips, “Yes to everything. If you can manage to take it from him, however you do it, yes.” he was breathing a little heavier now. “In fact, in light of recent events—the more damage you do, the better.”

Lex held his hand up, and stopped Brand in his tracks. “I need you to do it now.” Brand took another step towards him and Lex smiled and shook his head.

“Oh, yeah, okay. Now.”

He made swift arrangements and then turned to Lex with a shark’s grin. “Make it really good if this has to last me forever.”

Lex sneered. “Oh, it will, it will.”

 

He was spread over the couch, one leg shoved up high against his chest and the other trailing on the ground. His perfect pants were draped around his ankle, and his shirt was still buttoned and shoved up under his armpits. His coat was under him; Brand was fucking him hard, shoving his face into the lining, grunting like an animal. Lex grit his teeth and thought of—something, everything, anything to make this pass.

“Do yourself, I want to see you come.”

Lex groaned and dredged up images usually guaranteed to get him off, Jeremy in the bathroom long, long ago, Clark falling back against the wall when Philip sucked him off, coming all over his cheek, his chest…he jerked himself hard and fast and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from calling out, and managed to come, spilling over his hand and Brand’s and the goddamn fucking lining of his coat…thank fuck that was over and Robin was safe. He laughed weakly. Jesus, how many times had he taken a fuck to protect him?

Brand grinned at him. “It was good, hunh?”

“Yeah. The best I ever had.”

 

 

Chapter Eleven

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.
--Robert Lewis Stevenson

 

Lex started calling in favors owed him--one of the few lessons Dad taught that actually made sense. He called a school acquaintance who’d relocated rather abruptly to the west coast with Lex’s help, and told him that he was about to employ a discrete and skilled body guard. Of course the man readily agreed, relieved that repayment was going to be that simple.

A few more calls and Lex made sure that Robin and his family would be comfortable, close to Robby. His wife would receive a job offer that should make her happy--and would be nearly impossible to trace back to Lex—he doubted Robin would look too hard into it. Satisfied that that portion of his plan was completed, he met with Philip.

“Clark will need help getting used to a…” he stopped and laughed a little. “well--a normal life…does the thought of taking care of Clark bother you? Are you afraid of him?” now…

“I could never be afraid of Clark, never.”

“Good. I was hoping you’d say that.” He shrugged his shoulders and adjusted his coat. “All right. I’m going to talk to Lionel.”

Philip swallowed. “Good luck, Lex.”

Lex nodded. “Thanks. Here, these are the keys to Escalade. This is the address of the place I told you about. It should be in good shape—Dad never wastes anything. This is the phone number of the couple who are caretakers—they know to expect someone soon. They don’t live on the property, but they’ll be available to you. There’s an account in your name….” He put off Philip’s protests. “You need, it—I have no idea how long it’ll be before I can catch up with you. Ah. I think that’s everything. You have to make Clark your number one priority. Understand? You have to be up for the job--are you?

Philip nodded.

“All right.” Lex walked back to his desk and pressed the intercom. “Ray.”

There was a knock at the door and Ray came in. He glanced towards Philip and then towards Lex. “Ready?”

“In a moment. There’s something Philip wants to talk to you about,” and he left the room.

 

Philip stared at Ray, and back to the closed door. He shifted from side to side, and laughed weakly. “Well shit, I don’t…he’s…” He shook his head. “This is the weirdest shit that ever happened to me. I never…never expected anything like this. I mean…” He stopped, shook his head. “Weird.”

Ray tilted his head and said, “Hey, you’re gonna give me a complex. Did I screw something up?” He rubbed his head; buzz cut hair moving not at all.

Philip jerked, “Oh, no—no, not you. Didn’t I say it was the best thing that ever happened to me? Because, damn…” He took a step forward. “It’s so damn unfair.”

Ray shrugged. “What’s unfair? Nothing’s changed. We’ll talk about all this after, but now, I want you to know. The last few months? Have been the best I ever had, too.” He turned away and muttered ,”And I think I love you.”

Philip stared at him. “I—shit. Really?”

Ray started to speak, and Lex opened the door, “Sorry, we need to move--ready?”

Ray was instantly all business. He straightened, glanced back at Philip with a smile and a wink. “Always ready.”

 

Lex called Robin into the suite and told him that he planned to help Clark get away. Told him also what arrangements he’d made for him.

Robin stared at him. “So, essentially you’ve cut me out of this and re-arranged my entire life,” he said.

“Look, I’m trying to protect you from what’s about to happen, and if I don’t succeed, I’m trying to protect you and your family, like I promised.”

Robin nodded. “I’m not ungrateful for what you’re trying to do. But you must know, none of this would have been necessary if you’d kept on the path you were on as a boy. Now…you seem to be trying to regain it, and I wish you luck. I understand that you thought you had to be valuable and useful to your father. I understand that, now, you’re looking for some redemption by helping Clark. I hope you succeed, that you don’t end up taking advantage of a basically innocent young man. I’m sorry AJ. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I can’t bring myself to respect you. Maybe…maybe some day, I can again.”

Lex smiled at him, nodded his head and smiled the whole time Robin spoke, murmured “Of course, I see, yes, yes,” and gently guided him to the apartment door, to the driver waiting to take him, and his family, to the private airport where the jet waited for him, where freedom, and a new life, waited. The uppermost thought in his mind was that his ass still hurt, and he had a vicious cramp in one thigh. He nodded, and when Robin stuck out his hand, he automatically took it, and shook it.

“I’ll be thinking about you, AJ. I’ll pray that someday, you become the man you were supposed to be.”

Lex nodded again, and considered grabbing him by his tie, and not letting him go until he described, in all the detail he could remember, the times his father screwed him with the unspoken promise—the promise that had only existed in Lex’s mind-- that Robin and his family would be safe….

“Good-bye. I hope you have a good life. Your new boss is a decent enough guy—at least, he’s a better man than my dad was...the guy you worked for for what—thirteen years? Fourteen?” He shrugged and grinned. “Thanks, by the way. Dr. K never touched me again after that.’ He laughed. “Funny how things work out, eh?”

He shut the door softly behind him, and took a minute to calm his breathing, to unclench his teeth.

He did what he had to do, and now, that chapter was closed.

 

 

Ray glanced at him when he came back to the office, and said nothing. He scratched the back of his neck, and when he caught Lex’s eye, asked softly, “You okay?”

Lex rolled his shoulders, tightened the knot of his tie with a jerk. “Never better.” He cocked an eyebrow at Ray. “One down, more to go—ready?”

Ray hesitated for a moment, looked thoughtful and asked, “Do you think that Philip and Clark will be okay? ‘Cause I’m assuming you mean for them to take care of each other? That’s the real deal isn’t it?”

Lex gnawed at his lip and finally sighed. “Yes. Clark cares about Philip—I think he loves him. They’re set for life.” He looked down. “I don’t think…I don’t think my dad’s going to give in easily. Or at all. I’m sorry.”

Ray put his hand on Lex’s shoulder. “AJ, anyone who doesn’t get you is an idiot. Anyone who can’t see what kind of man you are, doesn’t deserve to see it. I’ll go anywhere with you, follow you any where, and be proud to.”

Lex looked up at him, and was overwhelmed by the depth of feeling in Ray’s eyes. “Thank you. You have no idea what it means to me to hear that. I want to believe it.”

Ray tightened his grip. “Believe it.”

They stood for a moment, Lex soaking up the feeling of…love. Respect. Everything he’d ever wanted and never received from anyone. It was hard to let go, but he did and they walked out of the office. Another chapter closed, Lex thought, and tears blurred his vision for a moment. Well. He sighed, and pasted the sardonic smile he reserved for evenings with the Luthors on his face.

 

Up in the elevator to Lionel’s office they stared at each other, smiling.

“You scared?” Ray asked.

“I can honestly say, at this moment, I am absolutely scared shitless.” Lex said and fiddled some more with his tie. He frowned and seemed to be in thought for a moment.

What? Ray asked.

Lex looked up at Ray, and felt a sudden loosening of a knot that had been twisted inside him since childhood. Something let go, and it felt like—freedom. It felt good. Maybe not for long, he thought and a little shiver of fear raced through him, but hey—it felt good. “Nothing,” he laughed. He yanked off the tie and threw it on the floor. “Not a damn thing.” He pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and lit up. Ray frowned.

“Those things will kill you, you know.” and waved his hand.

Lex sucked in smoke and laughed incredulously. “You have got to be kidding me. We’re both going to be dead in a mother-fucking minute.”

Ray stared at Lex’s wide cheerful grin and then laughed too. “Shit, we are, aren’t we? He checked his gun and grinned, spread his legs and bounced a bit. “Yep. Still scared?”

Lex took a deep drag and ground out the butt in the brand new carpet. “Completely, mindlessly, ready to pee myself. What about you--scared?” he grinned and blew a last lungful of smoke toward the opening doors.

“As a bitch,” Ray grinned back.

 

Lex and Ray ran a gauntlet of Lionel’s men, posted here and there in the hall to the office, lounging in the outer office, and all eyes were on the two of them. Lex swallowed.

‘There’s no way in hell we’re ever stepping out of that office again—but Dad won’t either.’

Lionel’s man stopped Ray at the office door, but Lionel called to him to let Lex through. It was plain how unhappy the man was not to frisk the two of them. Lex nodded at Ray and they walked in together. Lionel was sitting at his desk, a warm confident smile creasing his face. bastard…

Son. And well, well—there’s a face I haven’t seen in a while. To what do I owe the pleasure?

I won’t bore you with small talk, Dad. I’ve decided to take over your organization; I’m debating killing you. I’m taking Clark.

“Oh my, I don’t think that’s possible, son. You haven’t got the backbone for the first, or the second, and Clark—Clark needs me.”

Lionel looked too amusing, Lex thought, staring cross-eyed at the barrel of the gun pressed against the bridge of his nose. Lex was proud that the barrel never wavered, and he asked in a conversational tone, “Why? Why, and consider that a blanket question for everything you’ve ever done to me, all my life?” Lex didn’t look behind him, he heard a click, and Ray murmuring, “Lock this office down, or you die and he dies.” There was a low rumble, and steel doors rolled behind the mahogany office doors. Lex was impressed—he hadn’t known they were there.

Lionel was glaring at him, angry that one of his dogs had slipped the leash. “Why? It’s obvious. Everything I do is designed to make you strong. Stronger. You’ve always lacked backbone, Lex—all your life. I’m trying to make you worthy--” He stopped and gasped in pain, and Lex poked him hard in the forehead with the gun again, rocking his head back. A red mark bloomed on his brow. “Tsk. Dad, Dad.”

Ray snapped, “Don’t move, motherfucker,” and Lex heard the other man groan in pain, and smiled.

“Worthy? What—do you think you’re some kind of god or…I wonder if you even understand why you do the things you do. You weren’t making me strong. You used me, tried to break me, and when I wouldn’t break exactly the way you wanted, you tried to kill me.”

“It was your fault. You lost use for me, and then you tried to damage my pet, who has more worth for me you could never have.”

Lex stared into his eyes; examining him, trying to see into the depths, spoke softly, almost to himself, “…you were losing interest in him physically. He was getting too old, and you were starting to lose money on his fights. What did you plan to do with him, Dad? What was next in store for him—cutting him into pieces, trying to see what made him tick? Or just playing with him until he died? You are a deranged, disgusting and sick mother fucker.”

“Lex, Lex when will you learn? Overemotional as always.” Lex’s outburst brought a smile to Lionel’s lips. “ You never learn. I tried to teach you--”

“Please-- shut up. I’m trying to decide why I shouldn’t kill you right now.” Lex pushed Lionel’s head as far back as it would go into the chair, and Lex heard a dull wet crack behind him.

“Getting troublesome,” Ray said, and holstered his gun. Lex smiled at his father.

For the first time that evening, Lionel began to show a touch of real fear. “You’re in my building, surrounded by my men. What makes you think you’ll even make it to the outer office alive?

“See, here’s the thing—I don’t care that much. I mostly want to kill you.”

“I’ve done everything I can for you, tried to help you…”

He stopped, gulped hard and rose slightly from the chair, pressure of the gun barrel under his chin making him push up. Lex laughed, “Shit, I almost shot you right there.”

Lionel wheezed, “Do you want to know about Clark? I can give you information. You think you know but you really don’t.”

Lex felt a tingle of curiosity, but shook his head. “I don’t care.”

“He’s not human.”

“I know, you told me that already. He wasn’t, but he will be…”

“No, I mean that literally. Physically, he’s mutated so far that there’s nothing human about him. He’s changed to something—alien—and it could happen to you. Are you sure you don’t want to know?” Lionel clamped his lips together and Lex felt the little flicker of curiosity turn into a flame.

“Show me.”

Lionel shook his head.” Not unless we have a deal. No more talk of killing me, and I’ll let you go, alive.” His tone was slightly scolding, as if Lex was a misbehaving toddler. “And, I’ll let you go with the information. You’re getting far more than you had to begin with.”

“Here’s the deal—give me the information and I won’t kill you when you leave.”

Lionel’s eyes flicked toward the computer screen in front of him. “All right.” He pushed his chair back and Lex stiffened, the gun swinging up again to center on his dad’s forehead.

“Careful son, I just need a little room.” He smiled at Lex. “Technology is a wonderful thing, but as time passes, people forget the old ways and sometimes, the old ways are the best.” He felt along the dentine molding that decorated the edge of the massive mahogany desk, and with a muted click, a thin drawer opened, slid out like a tray, and sandwiched between two slices of veneer, Lionel revealed a disc. He smirked at Lex raised eyebrow. “What you want is here.”

“Give it to me.”

“Let’s trade. Your gun for the disc.”

Lex smiled. “Or, I could just shoot myself in the head and save you the trouble.”

There was commotion in the outer office and the metal doors screamed. Lex sprang forward, quicker reflexes enabling him to grab the disc. “Looks like I have it all” he grinned and the blast doors rolled back, the wooden doors burst open. He sprang forward, yanked Lionel over the desk, and pressed the gun against his chin. “I’ll kill him.”

“Let him go,” Lionel yelled, voice garbled by the metal jammed under his mouth. “Let him go!” The men parted and Ray yelled, “Come on, let’s go!”

Lex stared at his dad, stared at the gun pressing his mouth open and thought, I can pull the trigger, right now, pull it and those evil eyes will never look at me again.” His free hand slid up to his throat and he blinked when he realized he wasn’t wearing a tie. He smiled down at his dad and turned his head toward Ray. “All right—let’s go.”

The minute he took his eyes from him, Lionel struck out and Lex staggered, another blink and he was being rushed backward by a heavy body, and Ray was yelling, “Drop, drop!”

Lex realized he meant him, but the heavy body pushing up against him suddenly wasn’t, hands like bear traps grabbed him around the neck, and the leg, flung-- he was airborne—

“No, no!” He heard Ray shout, it sounded odd, echoed and it was nearly drowned out by the sound of splintering glass.

It hurt when he hit the window, his hands felt like they were going through a brick wall instead of a pane of glass. His scalp tore, his forehead--the coat he had on, a heavy pea coat to replace the sleek wool he’d ruined, kept most of the glass from his torso—his stomach dropped as gravity reached out and began to yank him out of the sky. Wind screeched past him and stole his breath, his stomach crawled towards his throat and he fought to scream. He closed his eyes and waited for the end.

 

Clark and Philip were on their way to the garage. Clark looked a little nervous, worried, and Philip tapped him on the arm.

“Walk normally, Clark. Look sick.”

Clark grinned briefly at Philip, and Philip smiled back. He’d explained that the change Lex spoke of was come at last—that they needed to get as far from Lionel’s city as they could. That Lex would join them soon as he could, but his heart beat faster when he said that, it was plain as day now, so clear, everything was now. If he concentrated just the littlest bit, he could smell that Philip sweated a little when he said that, he could hear the blood rushing in to surround his organs, and hear his lungs over inflate…Philip was lying but it didn’t surprise Clark. It was human, he supposed. It was normal for them to lie.

He slid into the car with Philip and sniffed—Lex’s scent was so thick in the car it made him a little hard. He relaxed and enjoyed the smell, the feeling. His eyes were closed as they left the garage but he knew where they were, he knew that in the opposite direction lay the MAC, and he knew every point in between. He could feel the direction, like a gentle tug in the center of his chest. It was comforting, in a way.

He idly let his hearing grow, evaluated and ignored Philip and cast about for familiar sounds and there it was…Lex. His heart was beating faster—Clark sat up with a frown. Faster, what was wrong— there was a tremendous spike in the beat and it was bumping all over. Clark lunged against the seat belt, “Go back—go back now!”

Philip yelped as Clark reached out for the steering wheel. “Stop before we have an accident--I can’t go back, he’ll kill me if we don’t leave now!”

Clark looked at him, red eyes snapping. He growled, “I’ll kill you if you don’t.”

Are you afraid of him? Lex’s voice played in his head, oh hell yeah, he thought,—I seriously am.

He wheeled the car around and they headed back to LuthorCorp with a roar. “What is it?”

“Lex is in terrible trouble, hurry.”

That meant Ray was probably dead, everything was different now. He drove fast as possible back to the tower. They screeched to a stop half a block away and saw a shape flying almost gracefully out through a shattered window, sail through the air. Clark gasped and Philip jerked his head toward him, “Clark, is that--” there was a shriek of metal being terribly abused, and Clark was gone, the car door spinning like a top on the street.

 

Lionel leaped up from the desk as his man threw Lex through the window, glass blew all around the room and he closed his eyes as pinpricks hit his cheeks. He gave himself a correct moment to grieve—and counted Lex as sacrifice to whatever god haunted his family. He given his son and his wife, and he’d gotten the best of it. He smiled. No one stood against him—no one.

 

Philip stood on the street and watched the black bundle dropping from the window floors above. It fell silently, tumbling a bit before straightening out and dropping straight down—he knew it was Lex.

He dashed inside and ran for the private elevator, he was inside the bulletproof car before anyone could stop him. He pulled the gun Lex insisted he carry free of the holster, and leaned against the wall, taking deep breaths, trying to steady himself. The car shot straight up to the office floor, and he was already pulling the trigger as the doors opened.

He dropped the single guard in the hallway, and wondered where the others were, heard gunshots coming from the open office door.

Inside the door was a frozen tableau from hell. The drapes at the window fluttered in a slight breeze, glass sparkled over the carpet, and the office was open to the sky. Ray lay on the floor, blood pooling around him. He surged forward, heart slamming in his chest, and the faster it beat, the slower time seemed to move—he was ready to die for Ray, more than fucking certain that he would. He was watching Lionel’s men respond, guns raising toward him in slow motion, waited for them to fire—and suddenly Clark was in the open frame of the window, eyes wide and lost, Lex cradled in his arms.

As the men shot, he pulled Ray out of the office, back to the elevator and inside. Philip’s hands were bloody where he touched him, and Ray was staring at the ceiling, lips working and his chest rattling, struggling for air. Philip slumped down until he held Ray in his lap, pressed his hand over the wound in his chest. Ray was going to die, but at least he wasn’t alone. Lex would be safe, Clark was with him. What ever came next was fated. He pressed his lips against the ice-cold forehead and whispered. “Love you, too.”

Ray’s eyes moved and fixed on his. His lips moved, and the elevator door opened.

 

“Clark, come here.” Lionel snapped, and Clark stumbled forwards, caught in the drapes.

“Put him down,” Lionel pointed to a spot, and he immediately laid Lex on the floor.

“Good boy…he has something of mine, I want it back. In his pocket—a disc.”

Clark felt like the collar was on again, it pinched his throat, made it hard to breathe, to think. He reached inside Lex’s coat, and tears dripped from his eyes. He couldn’t—it was a small thing, if he did what Lionel said, he might leave Lex alone….

Weak fingers wrapped around his wrist, and he was looking into gray blue eyes, into Lex’s still face. “I love you Clark, no matter what. It’s okay.”

“Clark!” Lionel barked. “Do as I say, now!”

Clark shook his head, again and again, like a dog throwing off water. He whispered to Lex, “Can we leave now?” and Lex nodded.

“Yes, yes we can.”

“Clark!” Lionel was furious, he was losing control over—everything. Clark looked at him, stared right into his eyes, for a second, before looking down at Lex. “Keep your head close to me, and hold on tight, okay?”

Lex nodded, and he fell back, bullets spattering against his back, Lionel shouting in the back ground “—get the batons—don’t stand there looking stupid—FUCK!”

Clark was out and rising, higher and higher, faster, towards the only safe place he could think of, Lex’s office at the MAC.

 

He laid Lex on the couch, and waited. After a while, Lex’s eyes fluttered open. He looked up at Clark and smiled.

“Hello—I guess I’m not dead.” He looked around the office and raised an eyebrow, turned to Clark. “So…you can…fly?”

Clark nodded, tears in his eyes. “I needed to and…it happened. Lex, my—Philip, Ray…they’re gone. Dead.” Clark choked, and tears ran, dripping over his chin.

“How do you know, did you see?” Lex pushed himself up and groaned. “How can you know…”

Clark wiped his face. “Philip is dying—I can hear it…” he flinched. “They’re dead.”

“Fuck, Clark. Can you hear…how can you? You can fly and…the fuck…you can hear all the way across town?” He laughed at himself, winced at the stinging cuts around his mouth.

“I can hear everything when I want to. I can hear everything…” he looked a little dazed for a moment, and then snapped back to Lex. “But I can silence all of it when I want, now. I can see…far, and deep. I can do so many things. I want to show you what I can do.”

Lex nodded, eyes wide and startled. He fumbled in his pocket. “I got something from Dad, something that might explain more about you--and me. Now, I just have to keep it from him—“ he gasped and turned white—pain shot through him as tiny slivers of glass worked their way out, cuts and abrasions tried to heal.

Clark yanked him to his feet and shoved him into the chair at his desk. He found scotch, a glass, and shoved the full glass into Lex’s hand. “Here, this will help. You need to, to, get strong again.”

Tears still ran, and his breath hitched from moment to moment. Lex watched him mourn and felt—disconnected, as though Clark’s sorrow had nothing to do with him. It seemed so private—so deeply felt. He almost envied Clark his pain. He swallowed the burning liquid and gasped as fire hit his stomach. “Okay—okay, we need to get out of here—quick.”

“I can fly us!” Clark looked pleased to be able to help.

“I’m not sure what to look for from the air…I imagine we can follow the interstate—but you have to fly high enough to keep hidden, and still see the road…”

Clark pointed at his eyes and smiled. “I can see—forever.”

Lex grinned back. Then lead on, my friend, lead on.”

 

Lex sat up in the dark, face illuminated by the screen, shaking hands trying to work the keys. He shook his head. There was so much information, so much that Lionel hadn’t connected. The shower of meteorites, the deaths that day, unexplained disappearances, the appearance of monsters…he rubbed at his healed cuts and abrasions. The adopted son of Jonathan and Martha Kent. The son that didn’t exist anywhere. The lack of information about Clark was beyond the scope of a pair of poor farmers to manufacture. The story was so thin, anyone who bothered could have seen right through it. His father had been greedy and only wanted Clark—his body.

Lex wanted something else. He wanted the truth. Once he knew it, he’d have the truth about himself, too.

He glanced over at Clark; sound asleep on the couch, his black hair tumbled over his face, one hand pushed under his cheek, the other between his knees. He was angelic and beautiful, even sleep-puffy, with a crust of drool at his lips. Lex smiled briefly before focusing on the information again. There was something missing here. He went through all the information he could find on himself and Clark. His blood was different, but so was Clark’s. There were some similarities, but Clark’s was just…odd.

Lex opened a file labeled Midwich, and found that Lionel had speculated that Clark was born to someone already effected by the meteorite’s radiation. He postulated that Clark was at best nominally human, that he might represent some giant step in evolution.

Lex snorted. Idiot. There was too much, Clark was more than superhuman…

Compounding the oddness was the fact that Lex had met Clark before; the time in his dad’s office hadn’t been the first time. That farmer and his son—those were the people Lionel had stolen Clark from.

Clark wasn’t even his name.

 

Lex read with growing horror what his dad had done to Clark--to Cal--to his family, and all with a sense of righteousness. He’d had no remorse in turning a little boy into a thing—trying to turn a little boy into a thing.

He found there was follow-up to the Kents. They were still in the farmhouse, and Lex swallowed, faint with nausea, wrung out from his descent into hell. How horrible could that have been, to go on living in that house after everything that had happened….how horrible.

His dad had to pay for that. For turning everyone’s life into a nightmare. He sighed. At least one good thing came of this—Robin was free.

Clark snuffled a little and burrowed into the couch. Lex watched, and his heart broke. Two good things. No mater what, Clark was his own man now, free of all chains and free of all pain. He could live like he was meant to, free, part of the world.

“Clark—Clark, wake up.”

Clark woke all at once, and Lex was a little startled. He was used to Clark waking slowly, painfully from sleep. He was used to him crying out in his sleep. This was –different. He was alert, instantly. He reached out and pulled Lex to him.

“It’s morning…I feel the sun,” he smiled. “I feel…good.”

Lex sighed. “Clark, we have work to do, in Metropolis… probably lots of different places…”

Clark smiled. “Lex, I can fly us anywhere you want to go.”

“Good. First, I need to make calls. And I’ll need your help for—other things as well.”

Clark nodded.

 

Starting from the MAC and working his way up the hierarchy of Lionel’s business, a switch in allegiance was offered, from Lionel to Lex Luthor. Terms were simple, join Lex or die. Allying themselves with Lex offered the ultimate in protection. Once in, they were in for life, there was no looking back, no leaving his employ.

They were all insured, however that once in—there would never again be a day in which they had to think about money, or look over their shoulders—as long as their loyalty was unquestionable.

And to insure that he would have unquestioning loyalty, he paraded before them the fact that he had the ultimate enforcer. As he explained to Clark, the bosses, the cartels, had to fear him more than they ever feared his father. Fear first, to capture them, he told Clark and then, to hold them, love. He would make them come to love him. Love was the definitive trap, he said.

But first, they needed to fear him more than death.

Clark told him he understood.

The final meeting with the last pocket of resistance took place at the MAC, in the basement of the former poolroom. Lex had given in to all demands and walked into the meeting with every appearance of being unarmed. Lex’s men stood outside the room, and he walked in to a meeting with men surrounded by armed bodyguards.

It was…a good faith gesture.

The men allied against him were veterans in the game of death and deceit. These were men that had allied themselves to Lionel but remained autonomous in their own cities. They feared no one, trusted no one. They greeted Lex’s arrival with laughter; in each and every eye was a look of amused contempt for the Luthor whore. The very bitch that Lionel promised had no place in his organization except at his feet. Now here he was, puppy fangs exposed and playing at being a man. They laughed amongst themselves, and knew that Lionel had never deserved his place if a thing like that could overthrow him. Certainly the rule of Lionel Luthor had come to an end. They would divide up what was left.

Lex sat opposite them at the table, looked at the faces filled with arrogance, contempt, disgust. He smiled and began to speak.

“My father promised you long ago, that you would all become and remain, wealthy men. He told you that joined into one unified colossus, nothing could stop you, and in this, he was correct. He asked for your loyalty, and you gave it. I’m not asking you for anything. I am going to give you something. Step down and you keep your lives.”

He stood, and the men stared at him, before breaking into laughter.

Lex smiled and let the wave of laughter subside, and said, softly, “Clark.” He stepped aside, and focus turned towards the doorway, through which sailed an arm, followed by a torso, and before the guard’s guns cleared their holsters, most of laughing men in the room were dead. Clark worked quickly, and messily, except with a few that Lex chose, and the deaths of those chosen were slow and methodical, and loud. Very loud….

What underlings Lex decided should live were given instructions: talk, talk as much as you want, spread the news everywhere, and pray that Lex didn’t come again.

Resistance was increasingly rare after that.

 

Rain whipped against the window, lashing the windows with torrents, bolts of lightning ripped the midnight black in two. Thunder crashed and rattled the panes in their frames.

Lionel watched the tumult, enjoyed the wild display. He was safe—for the moment. However much it galled him that Lex was dismantling his empire, he knew it was temporary, Clark or not, there was no way that boy could hold on to all this. He grinned.

Here in Suicide Slum, he was untouchable, anonymous. And he’d stay that way for as long as he liked. This building, that had been burned and rebuilt, with ashes in the mortar, and ghosts locked forever into the walls—this building would see him rise again, like a phoenix. From this base, he’d take back everything, and punish the disloyal, destroy those who stood against him. Most of all, he’d destroy Lex, bit by bit, slowly, and he’d make Clark the instrument. Once Clark was back with him, he’d break him, and search through the pieces for secrets.

 

Thunder roared behind him, lightning filled the room with a pure white light. The power cut, darkness fell abruptly. Spots danced before his eyes. He turned to face the fury raging outside and for a moment, thought his eyes were playing tricks on him.

The black outline of a man filled the window, fire where it’s eyes should be. The glass ran like water, and it stepped in, smoke rising off its skin and the stink of blood filled the room.

Death, waiting for him.

 

He came closer, closer.

“They’re dead. All your men are dead.” It stood in the room “I can do it now. I know what you did to me, the people who knew me…all this… pain…” It shook its head; droplets flew and struck him, warm drops. Tasting of salt and steel. “You should feel it too, feel it like I do….”

It came closer still and wrapped its hot sticky arms around him, flesh to flesh, sticking there, slick with still liquid blood here. It began to squeeze.

“Clark!” he gasped, “Stop! Stop this now.”

Clark laughed, and squeezed, his grip slowly tightening, he said, “I don’t think you can tell me what to do now. You don’t own me anymore.”

Lionel screamed, a high startled burst of sound and his ribs popped and cracked.

“I wish I had more time to spend with you, but I have to go see the place I came from and kill those people too.”

Lionel felt one last flash of triumph, he wanted to speak, but—

Clark saw the look in Lionel’s eyes, before they faded. Lionel felt he’d won something at the end, but he didn’t care. He took what he needed and dropped the broken corpse to the floor and threw himself out of the window.

 

He walked down the dark halls of the musty stone building, searching for Lex, and found him in the library, where Lex had set up an impromptu office.

He dropped Lionel’s head on the desk in front of him. Lex yelled and jerked to his feet, slapping the desk chair away—it spun away and tipped to the floor and Lex crowded against the wall behind him. “FUCK!”

“I killed your father.”

Clark looked worried, a little afraid, but also, Lex had the horrible sensation, looking for some kind of…praise. He glanced back at his desk, and had to bite his lips viciously to keep from giggling—Lionel looked just completely pissed off.

“Ah. So I see…you know, a simple re-telling of events would have been enough for me, really.” He moved away from the dead eyes. It was horrible really, how much death hadn’t changed them. “Looks like Metropolis belongs to me without question, now. Or should I say, us?”

Clark shook his head hard. “What ever makes you happy makes me happy. I don’t need a city.” Clark came closer. “But I do want something.”

“Of course, anything…” He gestured towards the desk “—can you”

Clark flashed a quick, too bright grin and was gone, a brief fluttering of paper and pool of dark fluid getting thick and tacky on his desk the only reminder of the gruesome souvenir that’d been sitting there.

Lex shook his head and before he could move, he was wrapped up in Clark’s arms. “I want something,” he repeated, and pressed his length against Lex’s back. He was too warm, and sticky in spots, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Clark loved him; it spilled out of his touch, seeped out of the warmth of the touch of his lips.

“Ask me anything,” Lex sighed, and Clark’s big hands slid up and down his body, pushing out tension and filling him with a warm sense of home.

“I want those people—those Kents.”

Lex stiffened. “How…how you mean, want, Clark? You want to get to know them? We can visit…”

“Lex! You know what I mean. I want to—to punish them. I want to hurt them.”

Lex could feel Clark’s heartbeat speed up, his breathing deepen.

“Clark, I can’t do that. They don’t deserve to die.”

Clark pulled him around to face him. “You won’t give me this one thing? I’ve done everything you asked, and you won’t give me this to me?”

It was…frightening and heartbreaking at once. Tears stood out in his eyes, his lip quivered horribly like a baby asking for a sweet, and only the smear of blood across his cheek destroyed the effect. Lex pressed back a impulse to wipe it away. “Clark--I’m doing it for your sake. To protect you. Those people were innocent—they tried to save you. I can see it in Dad’s notes. They fought hard for you…remember Bear, your blanket? No one throwing a child away does that. They were victims too—“

“Shut up!” Clark screamed, and froze. The look of horror on his face would have been laughable if he weren’t so completely terrified. He moaned, his shoulders curled in and he begged, “Lex—you have to tell me, it’s—it’s fair.”

Lex sighed, and told him, “The caretakers…they’re your parents. They live not far from here…” He folded his arms and moved away to lean against the door. “Your choice Clark. The world is full of choices.

Clark nodded, eyes red and wet. He eased closer to Lex, until he was leaning against him, and Lex relaxed against his heat. “Clark—there’s so much you should know about yourself. They can tell you—these Kents.”

Clark shook his head. “No.”

“Then go. Here—this is where you’ll find them.”

 

He dropped down on the road that led to the Yellow House. It sat at the end of a road lined with dark trees that pointed up like spread claws at the sky.

The House. He crouched a little, trembling, wishing Lex had come with him. He could feel evil thick in the air, creeping into his lungs, drawing the breath out of him…blue curtains hung lank at the windows, concealing Hell inside. Yellow flowers twisted their brown faces toward the sky—he imagined he could hear them screaming. The Devils were in there, hiding, waiting for him, waiting to drag him in…he backed away from the house, cold all over, when suddenly a sharp noise startled him, and a heavy weight struck him. Without thinking he struck back, and crushed the skull of a dog.

He stopped. A dog…a real dog….

Blood smeared his face when he rubbed at his eyes, a whine escaping from him. A real dog—and he killed it. He stood quivering over the corpse, and suddenly there was screaming, and shouting, and a man and woman stood on the wide porch of the devil’s house.

The woman had her hands over her mouth but Clark could plainly hear her screaming. The man, a big man with blue eyes and yellow hair, shouted at him, came storming towards him. Ingrained habit dropped Clark into position, waiting for the attack, ready to kill.

“No, no, Jonathan!”

The closer the man came, the more Clark could smell that he was afraid—the woman too.

He took a deep breath. It felt like the world was shaking—pain worse than wearing the collar filled him, and made him want to cry, but he stepped forward. He was ready to kill. These were the people that had given him up to a monster, they deserved death. He growled and as the man came close, he reached out, wanting to hurt the man as badly as they’d hurt him.

The woman made a strange noise—he thought of the dead dog, and something deep inside him splintered…she came out farther onto the porch. She gripped the porch rail and whispered, “Cal…Cal?”

It was horrible. The sound of her voice made his head feel like it was breaking. He was breaking and shattering, falling in a million pieces.…he felt soft hands on his cheeks, he tasted something warm and sweet, heard laughter, and one word echoed in his mind, Lara….

“muh…” he whimpered, from a throat tight with pain so deep it made the world stop for a long, long moment. This was…wrong. It was all wrong and he needed to get away. He needed to go to someplace safe.

He pushed the man away, and staggered back, sides heaving. His mouth was thick with sour saliva, he shook his head and breathed heavily though his nose. The stink of grass rotting in the fields, the wet sour smell of the cows, the musty moldy scent of earth clung to the inside of his nose and gagged him….

One second, one minute—he needed…there were tears in the man’s eyes, he heard the woman crying and he needed…to get away, far away. “You should hope that I never come again.”

His eyes glowed red, and he bared his teeth, and the man said, “Please…”

The woman held her shaking hand out and said that word again.

Kal.

Kal was didn’t matter, Kal was dead. He stepped away, away from deceitful devils, and shot straight up into the air. Without a look back he turned his face to home and headed to Lex.

 

Epilogue

The King of Metropolis was on his back in an acres wide bed, purple sheets so soft it was ridiculous, the mouth wrapped around his dick was so hot and wet it was insane. His prince groaned deep in his chest as he pressed harder, tried to force more of his dick into his throat.

From the living room, Lex could hear a storm crashing through the towers of his city, he heard the snap of the drapes and a crash as the wind blew something over—didn’t matter, all that mattered was here, all that was real was in this bed…

He shoved Clark to his back and lifted his legs, pushed in deep, and he groaned, stroked in and out and Clark yowled like a cat in heat. His dick lashed and strained against his belly and Lex fucked him hard, fast. Come spurted hot and thick, painting milky stripes across his broad chest. Lex’s dick flexed in response and the hot muscles clamping around him wrung an orgasm out of him, made him scream….

Clark smiled up at him, blinking as he slowly came back to himself. Thick muscles moved lazily as he rubbed the come into his golden skin.

“My turn.”

Hard again, or still hard, his lover pushed into him with almost as little care as he’d taken, and it hurt enough to make him cry out, and that just ensured he’d get fucked harder. It was perfect. Beautiful lips, soft and warm closed on his shoulder, rough tongue scrubbed against the tender flesh, and sharp teeth ground into him. Perfect. Pain and pleasure made a delicious cocktail, the only drink he could lose himself in. Pain grew until it was pure as crystal and filled him, made his ecstasy that much more brilliant. His orgasm, when it broke, was like dropping into the center of a star....

 

The moon was strong and high, and bright enough to shine through the rapidly moving clouds. Rain blew away, driven on by the wind. Lex lay still, listening to the receding storm. He was comfortable, with Clark’s head resting on his shoulder, his forehead warming his throat. A corner of the purple sheet was tucked and rolled under Clark’s chin, and even deep in sleep he was clutching Lex. Every so often, he’d whimper and move, and hold on a little tighter. Lex wondered what he dreamed about, but never asked him. Never. If Clark’s dreams were anything like his own, he didn’t think he could stand to know.

All he needed to know was tomorrow was another day—another day that was his.

The End

Infirmier: “So you essentially turned a man into a dog.”
Bart: “Like my saint of a mum used to say: Get 'em young enough and the possibilities are endless.”

-- Danny The Dog

 




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