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Thread: Episode 12 -"Fragile" (PG)

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    Episode 12 -"Fragile" (PG)

    Title:Fragile
    Author: Becky

    Notes, disclaimers, etc. in Episode 1

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The whole world was still.

    Quiet.

    Not a clock in the world was ticking in that one, eternal moment. Drops of rain floated in mid air. Breaths were half-taken, and a blink would last a lifetime.

    The scene was one of panic and confusion. Tears were half-fallen from a young mother’s face as she ran, holding her daughter close, a protective hand over the little blonde curls nestled into her shoulder. The girl’s eyes were fixed on the road behind them, at the crack sprawling across the surface and swallowing the cars. She wondered if it would swallow her, too.

    Deep underground in the Kawatche caves, a desperate tableau was lit by the dull beam of a flashlight. Lex was standing on uneven ground, surrounded by loose earth and rocks that had covered his skin. He was leaning over, frozen: his hands, grazed from raking through the pile of earth before him, were now fastened under Chloe’s arms as he pulled her body from the suffocating mound. Her eyes were closed and a worrying look of peacefulness was fixed on her face. Lex’s eyes were wide and his mouth formed an ‘O’ as he cried her name, willing his voice to break through her unconsciousness.

    On the Kent Farm, Martha’s face was cast upwards as she lay helplessly on the barn floor, watching the pitchfork fall from the mezzanine. If Martha had been lucid in that long moment, she would have seen the sunset reflected in the sharp prongs: would have seen her reflection looking back at her in panic, screaming for her son to help her.

    Life had stopped for everyone.

    Everyone but Clark Kent.

    To him, the quiet world was just a blur, a flurry of colors and streaks of light as he cut through it, his legs propelling him faster than he had ever thought possible.

    The wind whistled around his head, punctuated by long strides as he traveled through the cornfields. He could feel his body pulsing as his heart pumped furiously to feed his body with the energy it needed.

    The screams still rang in his head: Lana and Martha crying for help, the desperate tone in their voices betraying the fact that it was already too late.

    He knew it was too late to save them both. Maybe too late to save either of them.
    But he had made his choice... to save her first… and his body found new life.

    Clark burst through the door, and his eyes widened as he saw the scene: Lana was laying on her back in a Talon booth, her eyes full of panic as they were fixed on the light fixture that was a hair’s breadth from her face. Her arms were raised in a vain attempt to protect herself from the light that would shatter against her pale skin.

    Clark’s breath formed a lump in his throat, and it tasted of fear. Before he realized what was happening, the world began to move again, slowly at first, but Clark could see that it was returning to normal. He had stalled. Lost his concentration… and now it could all be over. He watched as the glass struck Lana’s face, pressing against her skin, and at once he lunged forward. In one fluid motion he struck the light with his arm as his body covered Lana to protect her. The glass shattered at the sudden impact, and thousands of shards rained down on them. He tried to cover her, to protect her, but shards still left a bloody trail behind them on her face. Her scream was close now, beside his ear as the world began to move at its own pace once more, the tremors now subsiding beneath them.
    Lana’s face was full of pain, yet it displayed nothing but shock when she opened her eyes.

    “Clark?!” He looked down at her, and then jumped to his feet.

    “Clark how did you… where did you…” Lana looked around for an explanation: it was almost like he had appeared out of thin air.

    Clark watched her confused expression, marred by the streaks of blood now falling like tears down her cheeks. And then it hit him. The sound that would haunt him for the rest of his life. A piercing scream. Pain.

    His mother.

    Without a word to Lana, he turned and ran to the door, and when out of sight, streaked across the town in a blur. The scene that greeted him in the barn made his chest tighten: he almost couldn’t breathe.

    He found his mother on the floor, a pitchfork embedded deep into her stomach. The hay on the floor around her was now a deep shade of red. Glistening. Wet.

    “Mom!” He was at her side, and for once, didn’t know what to do. He wanted to hold her, tell her everything was going to be OK. Martha turned her head to look at him, the halo of blood now spreading further across the dirty floor.

    “Oh, Clark!” She cried, coughing deeply and wincing in pain. “I knew it,” she said, her voice fading. “I knew you would come.”

    He watched as her eyes rolled into the back of her head, her consciousness slipping away. Intense feelings of guilt and betrayal began to shroud him, as his eyes fell on the broken body before him.

    And then he realized a truth so sharp it pierced him, leaving him breathless.

    He had made the wrong choice.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe was in a strange place. It was cold and black: nothing to see, nothing to touch or taste. It felt like a vast room, but the emptiness of it was smothering.

    A glimmer of light behind her caught her attention and made her spin around. It was like a camera flash, and her eyes chased it, craved the stimulation. It happened again, and again, getting quicker.

    Chloe felt the hairs stand up on the back of her neck. The skin across her back shivered and tightened as she felt a presence crawling nearer to her. She felt a rising panic spreading through her body, the knot tightening in her stomach. The flashes continued, showing her a glimpse of something black. It moved around her, constantly at the corner of her eye. A shadow.

    Chloe began to run backwards, her eyes frantically searching the space around her. The light grew in intensity until it was pulsing intense beams that scorched her eyes. She could see a figure in front of her, looming above her. Her feet rooted to the ground: there was nowhere to hide when you were in an endless empty room. The figure took a step closer to her, and Chloe had to blink several times before she believed her eyes.

    “Lex?” she asked, her voice sounding strange and distant.

    The blue eyes staring back at her didn’t flinch. Chloe’s shoulders fell as she relaxed a little, but she still took a hesitant step back. There was something wrong. Something missing, or maybe something extra that she couldn’t place… it wasn’t Lex, it was almost Lex.

    “Please…” she mouthed taking a few more steps back. He matched her steps, his glare fixed on her, his features were dark, tainted.

    Chloe gasped as in a split second, his hands were around her throat. His long fingers stretched around her neck, his thumbs pressing harshly into her windpipe.

    Oh God, I can’t breathe!

    His fingers squeezed tighter, crushing her, lifting her from the ground. She tried to claw at this hands, to pry his fingers away but his attack was relentless. She felt his piercing eyes glaring at her, unfeeling and unflinching. There was no emotion in them, no regret, no rage, just pure cold calculation.

    She couldn’t breathe at all now, could feel her chest becoming tighter as it became a vacuum, desperate for air. Flashes of red light startled her eyes, and she felt a pain shoot through her spine as Lex threw her to the floor, his grip still tight around her neck.

    He kneeled over her now, her legs tried to kick up at him, but she had no strength and hardly made contact with him. As she felt herself slipping away, she saw those blue eyes come closer.

    “I need more…” Lex whispered in a tone that chilled the room.

    “I need more…”

    Chloe drifted into blackness.

    Everything was silent.

    No more pain.

    And then a hot breath that scalded her throat. It ripped through her like an electric shock, filling her lungs with air and scraping her windpipe like sandpaper.

    She heard Lex’s voice again: it was distant, but getting louder. This time it was full of emotion: desperation and anxiety. “Breathe, Chloe,” it said, “don’t you dare give up…”

    Her eyes jolted open and she saw the dark room, Lex above her once again. Those piercing blue eyes, his hands resting around her throat. She instinctively took a sharp intake of breath to scream but she inhaled nothing but dust and dry air. She coughed violently, doubling over with the effort, yet at the same time trying to roll away from Lex and crawl to safety.

    She felt his hands on her shoulders trying to push her back to the ground, and gave a strangled cry in protest. Her hands were clawing at the ground to haul herself away, but his strength overpowered her weak body and held her in place.

    “Don’t kill me, please…” she cried, a tear escaping down her cheek, clearing a path through the lingering dust that had settled there.

    “Chloe, what are you talking about? I just saved you,” he said, “no-one is trying to kill you.” He brushed away a strand of hair from her face. “You must have had a nightmare while you were unconscious.”

    But it was so real… she thought to herself as she looked up at Lex. Her body was still tense, alert to the danger kneeling beside her.

    “There was a cave-in,” he explained, fixing her gaze, trying to calm her. “There was another quake and you were buried… I pulled you out but you weren’t breathing.” He knelt back a little to give her some space; some much needed breathing room.

    “Do you hurt anywhere?” he asked, a slight frown flicking across his forehead, hinting at his concern. She shook her head, not trusting her grazed throat to allow her to talk.

    “Good,” he continued. “It looks like the exit has been blocked by some of the falling debris. I need you to stay here while I go check it out, and try to get us out of here. Can you do that for me?”

    “Yes,” she whispered, coughing a little. She watched as he smiled at her, then made his way across to the other side of the cave.

    It was so dark in there… not even a chink of light from the doorway. She could see her flashlight lying a few feet away, the bulb flickering slightly. It cast long, oppressive shadows across the cave walls, illuminating the symbols with its blue light.

    She looked over to see the symbol that had lured her here: the warrior with the S on his chest. It was nowhere to be seen, hidden deep in the shadows. As her eyes searched the blackness, she remembered the breastplate, the vision of the battlefield, the sword that swung towards them…

    Chloe closed her eyes. It was like she needed to explain it all so badly that she almost couldn’t bear it. Instinctively, her hand reached up to her neck pulling her necklace from its confines, enclosing it possessively within her palm. It was almost as if warmth spread from her fingers, enclosing her body in a snug blanket, making the world much simpler.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Beep….

    Clark stared at the hospital monitor.

    Beep…

    At the green line that jumped in time with the monotonous sound.

    Beep…

    He shouldn’t have to listen to it. It was his fault that he was here, looking at his mother’s lifeless hand resting in his palm.

    Beep…

    And yet it meant the world to him, for it told him that his mother was still alive. He closed his eyes as if to block out the sound. He could hear his mother’s heart for himself: it was different somehow. Strained. Broken.

    A vision of her laid out on the barn floor flashed before his eyes: a portrait that would haunt him to the end of his days. Those metal prongs that disappeared into her stomach.

    That widening pool of blood that poured from her body.

    Clark watched the scene replay in his mind. How he had used his heat vision to sever the handle of the pitchfork so that he could pick his mother up… gently. So gently. He ran with her to the hospital, bursting through the doors, finding an empty bed on which to place her… he ran down the corridor that was full of panicked faces: the quake had just happened, so the casualties were yet to pour in. Staff were in a state of confusion, picking up trays of instruments that had crashed to the floor, trying to calm patients whose heart monitors were worryingly erratic. He looked down the long corridor and could hardly see the checkerboard linoleum for the sea of white coats, the pink uniforms of the nurses, the stray patients that didn’t know where to go. A crowd of faces, none of them looking at him, none of them knowing that his mother was dying.

    He had grabbed the first white coat that he could; it belonged to a young doctor with tired eyes. “Help me, please, it’s my mom, she’s…” he couldn’t finish the sentence, he simply pointed to his mother on the hospital bed, her arm had fallen to the side and was now dangling lifelessly from the trolley. There quickly followed a flurry of movement, shouted orders, long words that he didn’t understand and couldn’t remember. His mother had been taken straight into surgery, a nurse doing her best to hold him back, telling him that he couldn’t follow.

    He had wandered the corridors aimlessly, his mind only half aware of the scene around him. The hospital was quick to fill with casualties: endless sirens and a barrage of people falling in from the street. He had been wandering through the waiting room when he saw his father staggering in, flanked by two men he didn’t recognize.

    ”Dad!” Clark cried as he pushed himself through the crowd, relieving the men of their burden. He saw at once the large cut on his father’s forehead, blood streaming down the right side of his face.

    “We were driving down Route 8 and saw his car crashed into a crater…” explained one of the men. “We brought him straight here.”

    “Thank you,” said Clark, sincerity in his eyes as he looked at the two men. He had waited with his father while an orderly stitched his head, fixing a large patch over the area. With a hand fixed on his father’s arm, Clark had told him about his mother, that she was in surgery, and that they couldn’t see her until she was out. Clark’s restraint wasn’t necessary, as Jonathan hadn’t tried to run to his wife. He had simply stayed still, perched
    on the edge of the hospital bed, and allowed the tears to fall down his face.

    As Clark remembered his father’s expression, tears began to fall down his own face, splashing onto his mother’s hand, tracing around her knuckles.

    The wait while his mother was in surgery had seemed like forever. Clark and his father had both sat side by side, staring at the wall, not moving, not talking. It was agony. They had both flown to Martha’s side as soon as she was out of surgery, and Clark had remained there ever since. Orderlies had taken his father into another room to check on his wound, and Clark now found himself alone, listening to the monotonous beep of the heart monitor, wishing that his mother would open her eyes…

    He hadn’t told his father about the choice he had made: he was almost too ashamed to admit it to himself. He felt as if something was stretched deep within him, taut, as if it were about to snap and take his resolve with it. Clark knew that one of those reproachful looks from his father would be enough to do it: of course, such a look would be deserved;
    Clark almost felt he should endure it as punishment. But then another part of him wanted to shield his father from the truth, that his son was responsible for his mother’s critical condition. If she didn’t open her eyes soon, he would be responsible for her death…

    Perhaps for the first time in his life, he found himself wondering what Jor-El would say…

    Clark remembered his father’s echoed words that had haunted him since the summer.

    You’re not finished Kal-El. Your mission is far from over. Go back and finish it. He had mused so many times on what that mission was. What he was supposed to do.

    What is my purpose in life?

    He remembered all that he had learned from messages in the caves, from his father’s voice in the spaceship… he was to rule the third planet.Was this the mission that he was to complete? If he was here to rule the world, would Jor-El be pleased at this act of ruthlessness? Would he smile with accomplishment at the lack of humanity in his son? Or would he reproach him for allowing his head to be ruled by his irrational heart, for allowing a woman to come before his earth mother…

    But then, perhaps Jor-El would understand the dilemma in that fateful decision. He had been to earth himself in his youth: he had fallen in love with Louise McCallum, Lana’s Aunt.
    Clark had been given visions of the past by a Kryptonian medallion that his father had worn. He had seen the love affair play out, his father’s passion as he and Louise made love in the barn, as he had told her his secret, as she lay bleeding in his arms…

    Both he and Jor-El had fallen in love with a woman from the Lang family. It had clouded Clark’s judgment just as it had his father before him. Were you here on a mission, father? Did you have to return because of her? Did you fail because of her? Is that why you are so desperate for me to finish what you started?

    Clark heard the door open quietly. He didn’t look up, but knew the sound of Lana’s careful footing on the floor as she made her way to his side. She stood there quietly for a few moments, and Clark stole a gaze at her. Her cuts and bruises had been cleaned, and she had butterfly stitches across her left brow. Her once perfect skin was now marred by grazes, by a slight redness left over from the spirits used to clean it. Her eyes looked down to his mother, sadness emanating from beneath her lashes.

    Lana was the first to speak. “How is she?”

    Clark looked at his mother lying beneath the stiff white and lilac sheets. “Not good,” was the only reply he could manage. Lana didn’t know what to say to him, didn’t want to say anything to upset him. She placed a hand on his shoulder but he didn’t acknowledge it, he didn’t lean towards her, didn’t look up into her eyes.

    “I should have been there, should have stopped this from happening,” he said, almost to himself.

    “Clark,” replied Lana, “you had only just left the Talon, there is no way that you could have made it to the farm in time.” Her fingers tightened on his shoulder momentarily. “You mustn’t blame yourself.”

    If only you knew, thought Clark. Not only did he blame himself, but a part of him, a dark part, blamed her. The girl who belonged to the comforting hand on his shoulder, the one who was standing there with no idea of the magnitude of the decision he had made.

    He loved Lana; of this there was no question. He had always loved her, but right now his heart was betraying his conscience: he had asked his heart for an answer in that one decisive moment, and it had given him an answer which led to this. Sitting in a hospital room listening to his mother’s weak heart. How could it be right?

    “Lana,” he began, not looking up at her. “I need some time alone.”

    There was a long pause as Lana slowly lifted her hand from his shoulder and waited for words to come.

    “OK,” she said simply, failing to mask the hurt in her voice. “I’ll be at the Talon if you need me… everyone seems to be meeting there, not knowing what to do with themselves.”

    “Go,” said Clark, quietly.

    “I’m here for you Clark,” she said, almost whispering, “just as soon as you want me. Please don’t shut me out. Don’t go through this alone.” He didn’t respond. He continued to look at his mother’s fingers in his, her wedding band that still had a trace of blood hidden in the engraved pattern.

    Lana looked at him with a worried expression. She leaned towards him and left a kiss on the top of his head, before making her way to the door. She stepped through it and moved out into the corridor. Clark didn’t want to look up at her, didn’t want her to see something in his eyes: contempt, maybe. He heard her footsteps stall as she looked at him through the window, and then listened as they moved slowly down the corridor and out into the early morning sun.

    He was left alone with his mother once more in the quiet hospital room, listening to the thoughts of his guilty mind, of his broken heart. Listening to the monotonous beep of the monitor…

    Beep…

    Beep…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The air in the cave was stagnant, thick with the silence that filled the space. It had been left in a chaotic state of calm: heavy pieces of rock had fallen from the very top of the cave, and now formed sharp, jagged boulders that spread across the floor.

    Chloe had watched Lex for some time, as he had busied himself about the cave, looking for chinks of light, rocks that could be moved to reveal an exit. She had watched the shadows play over his face as his frown grew in intensity when he found no hope of escape. Still he had wandered around the cave again, double-checking, triple-checking. Holding his cell up everywhere to try and get a signal.

    Chloe had watched him with a kind of fascination, in his own little world, oblivious to her observation. She noted how impressive it was that his cool demeanor stayed intact in times of crisis. Of course, being in mortal peril was just like another day at the office for Lex. She wondered if being trapped in a cave in the middle of a natural disaster caused more stress levels than a call with a business associate…

    His physical distance from her had allowed her to calm down, had allowed her to recognize her nightmare for what it was… a nightmare and nothing more. Lex had saved her life.

    After pacing several laps around the cave, Lex had taken a seat on the floor across from her. He was now inspecting the tarnished leather of his expensive Italian shoes, carefully brushing off the abrasive dust. Chloe resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

    The cave fell silent, and Chloe’s eyes focused on her flashlight on the floor between them.

    She was surprised to realize that she felt decidedly calm… it was almost irrational given everything they had been through, the situation that now presented itself. Yet she was able to concentrate with pure focus on the dim light: it was no longer a pool of bright white, it was a dirty yellow color, the bulb’s element exposed as it flickered almost hypnotically. Her eyes remained fixed on it, and she had to remind herself to blink when her eyes became wide.

    She felt the contours of her necklace beneath her fingertips, its cool crystal warmed under her touch as she traced the etched symbol over and over again. As she looked at the flickering light, she began to recognize something similar within her, something was dawning, showing her the way, yet somehow her head knew that this new path should be forbidden.

    Lex no longer brushed his shoes. He looked at Chloe with a concerned look on his face. She was staring wide-eyed at the flashlight, playing with her necklace, not seeming to notice that her body was shaking… that her lips were having a silent conversation without her realizing. She sat with her back to a boulder, one arm hugging her legs tightly to her chest, swaying back and forth ever so slightly.

    Lex was confused because he had seen something like this many times before, but that had been in his youth, usually in an exclusive VIP club suite filled with the rich and beautiful. Money to pay for the latest designer drugs and a total disregard for consequences had been a dangerous combination in those days… Lex had been lucky. Of course he was part of the ‘in’ crowd with his money and reputation alone, but for a young man always looking for a new way to anger his father, the drugs scene had been a powerful asset. He remembered Club Zero… zero consequences… the gun, the body falling, his fingers clasped around the cold metal… there were always consequences. It had been a hard way to learn the lesson, but he had learned it all the same.

    “How are you doing?” Lex asked, not breaking his gaze on the young blonde. He watched
    as her overly alert eyes jerked up to meet his.

    “Fine… I’m fine,” her eyes moved back to the flashlight, her fingers never leaving her necklace, “fine, fine, fine,” she whispered, as the back and forth rocking in her body cradled her back into her own thoughts.

    “What are you thinking about?” he asked.

    “The vision,” came her quick reply.

    “Your nightmare?” He prompted.

    “No, the one from before… you were there.” Her rocking halted abruptly, her eyes rose steadily to meet his. Lex saw a glimpse of the familiar Chloe looking back at him.

    “Did you… did you see it too?” she whispered, looking terrified at the prospect of his answer.

    “I don’t know what I saw,” he replied.

    “It was a battlefield,” she replied, the rocking starting up again, her eyes becoming wide. “And he was there, you were there…”

    “Who? Who is ‘he’?”

    Chloe looked at him like his words had burned her. “You…”

    Lex sighed deeply. This wasn’t making any sense. Chloe wasn’t making any sense, though something told him that she wasn’t exactly herself, and she certainly didn’t seem to realize that…

    “Was he… was that Alexander?” he asked, looking up at her once more, unsure of where the words came from.

    “All connected…” she said melodically, her head falling to one side. “Him… Alexander…” each word was punctuated with her rocking back and forth, “Naman…” she said, her voice becoming quiet, “Sageeth… Lex…”

    “What?” Lex said, his voice projecting an echo around the cave. Chloe looked up at him, startled. Lex noticed that her knuckles were white as she clutched her pendant, and he saw Chloe disappear from her own face.

    ”You want to be him… want the same things he does…” she said, her head once more tilted.

    “The same things as who? Alexander?” Lex waited a few moments for her to respond, but she didn’t seem to even acknowledge that he was there. She was lost in her own thoughts.

    “You like your necklace, don’t you…” he observed, watching her with fascination.

    Her hand quickly jerked away from her neck and she inspected her fingers. Lex noted the look of confusion on her face: it was as though she didn’t know what she was doing. She shook her head as though to make way for coherent thoughts.

    “I’m sorry, what were we talking about?” she said, looking at him expectantly, waiting for a prompt.

    “Alexander the Great,” he replied, “you were about to explain to me what it was we saw…”

    He smiled inwardly at the puzzled expression that rose to her face once more. Chloe knew something, perhaps unwittingly, but she knew it nevertheless.

    “You said that I want to be him…”

    Chloe smiled at this. “I’ve always known that… it’s pretty obvious.” Lex simply raised an eyebrow at her, inviting her to continue. “You’d idolize anyone who tried to rule the world.”

    Lex felt a little crestfallen at her response: she was mocking him and he didn’t take kindly to it. She seemed to notice his expression.

    “You’re right to feel bad, Lex. Alexander the Great was King at 16, and defeated the Persian Army at Granicus with military genius when he was only 20. I think you have some catching up to do.”

    “I never knew you were such a history buff.”

    “Any good reporter can Google, Lex. Did you expect me to interview you about Alexander’s breastplate without having done a little research?”

    “Point taken,” he commented, slowly rising to his feet and stretching his back before continuing, “If you know so much, then tell me this… how is it that two minds can see the same thing at the same time?”

    Silence. He turned round to look down on her again, and he saw her face looking at him blankly. He frowned when he recognized a slight tension behind her eyes, it was as though she was trying to mask her own feelings, suppress a memory.

    “You remember the desert, don’t you?” he began, “The blinding light…”

    Chloe’s eyes fell from his face and she closed her eyes. “The shadows…”

    “The warriors…”

    “The sword that fell…” Chloe exhaled a deep breath to calm herself. “I wish I knew how we had seen it, Lex, why we had seen it. Other than telling you that this is Smallville, home of the weird, I can’t help.”

    Lex wasn’t satisfied. Chloe had the answer inside her, she just didn’t realize it. It was beginning to frustrate him. “What does Alexander the Great have to do with the legend on these walls? Why is the ‘S’ symbol on his breastplate?”

    “I don’t know,” she replied quietly.

    “Then take a wild guess,” he said, disliking the twinge of annoyance that came across in his tone. He took a breath to calm himself. “It’s all connected, isn’t it Chloe… tell me how.”

    Chloe raised an eyebrow and looked away from him, realizing that he wasn’t going to change the subject. “You want my guess?” She asked, rising to her feet: she was shorter than Lex, but didn’t like the feel of him towering over her, barraging her with questions. At least this way she was closer to his level.

    “Well,” she began, “remember how you asked me who won the battle between Naman and Sageeth?”

    “You told me that it wasn’t clear because as soon as one was defeated, they rose again…”

    “Yes. Like the sun being defeated by the moon at night, but being destined to claim victory at sunrise… the battle is like a cycle. Never ending.”

    Lex looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to continue further. “What if…” she began, “what if there wasn’t just one Naman, or one Sageeth. What if it’s a recurring theme, a cycle? Naman isn’t one person. Neither is Sageeth. They are names given by the Kawatche to the very worst of enemies, those that find themselves on this earth to do battle, their mission to achieve greatness at the expense of the other…”

    Lex allowed himself to laugh quietly. “Chloe this is madness.”

    “How else do you explain it?” she said, “either the Kawatche people were writing about a recurring theme in history, or some alien race has been sending visitors to our planet for generations to rule the world… which one sounds more realistic to you?”

    The sarcastic smirk was still pasted across Lex’s lips. “Are you telling me that Alexander the Great… was Sageeth?”

    “No,” she deadpanned. “He could have been Naman.” Chloe rubbed her temple and squeezed her eyes shut. “Look, I’m giving you an interpretation of what is in front of me. These gifts don’t come with a manual, you know… these symbols aren’t a painting-by-numbers guide to the secrets of the universe.”

    “So you’re telling me that’s the feeling you get… that Alexander is linked to this legend?”
    “His mission in life was to conquer the world, Lex. His allies revered him as a God; he said that he was the son of Zeus. Of course, his enemies would have a different view… he was a ruthless killer. Who is to know whether the Kawatche would see him as Naman or
    Sageeth.”

    “But who was his enemy?” asked Lex, “the other side of the coin?”

    “Don’t you remember Lex? Naman and Sageeth were friends to begin with…” she waited for him to follow her train of thought.

    “Alexander killed his own best friend,” said Lex, slowly.

    “Yes,” Chloe continued, “he killed him in a blind rage: who is to know that the true story of what happened between them wasn’t rewritten by Alexander? He would have the resources to taint it in his favor, to make himself seem like the unquestioned hero, to play down any ongoing battle between them.”

    “So tell me this… if this legend is a cycle… a theme running through history. Alexander was the past, who is the future? Who will be the next Naman? The next Sageeth?”

    “I’m not a manual, remember?” she replied sarcastically. A heavy sigh escaped her lips and her eyes began to roam around the cave, around the small clearing that they were standing in. Her right hand went up to her necklace once more as she traced the cool crystal etching beneath her fingers.

    “So why the vision, Chloe?” asked Lex, fearful that she would disappear into her own thoughts again.”

    “You said yourself that weird stuff happens in these caves,” she began, “the Starblade was meant for Naman, to show him the identity of Sageeth. Maybe the necklace was meant for Naman too, to tell him who he was… to show him where he had come from in order for him to realize his path in life, to show him where he needs to go…”

    Maybe it will show Sageeth too… mused Lex, darkly. He began to take steady steps towards Chloe.

    “Can I see your necklace?” he asked, his palm outstretched as he continued his slow advance on her.

    Chloe felt panic rise in her. Oh God, he can’t take my necklace. She felt an ache in her stomach as she remembered the last time she had taken it off. It had felt like her heart was breaking. Standing in the middle of Lex’s study, vowing to never endure that pain, that emptiness again…

    “I don’t want to take it off,” she said, backing away from him. “I can’t.”

    “What do you mean you can’t take it off?” his voice was stern now. “Just let me look at it.”

    Chloe began to shake her head, both her hands clasped protectively around the pendant. Her back pushed into the rough surface of the cave wall and he came to stand in front of her, his determined expression towering above her. She started to shake, as though pure adrenaline was seeping into her fingers directly from the necklace. However, she didn’t dare move, Lex was too close, he wouldn’t let her, and all the energy in the world couldn’t empower her small frame enough to run away from Lex when he was in such close quarters. She was shaking now, both from fear and from the exhilarating rush that flowed through her.

    And then the unexpected: Lex smiled. It was a strange feeling, as Chloe had rarely seen those lines at the corners of his mouth, the way his eyebrows changed contour, the lines on his forehead didn’t seem so serious… Though he didn’t take a step back; he remained perfectly still.

    “Chloe…” he began, his voice softer than usual. He brought his hands and slowly closed them around hers, still clutching tightly to the pendant. Chloe flinched a little, fearing the blinding pain behind her eyes that happened the last time he had touched her. “Chloe,” he repeated, “I just want to look at it.”

    She looked down at his long elegant fingers surrounding hers, and watched as he gently pried her fingers away from her pendant. She didn’t resist, even as she felt lost without it in her hands, felt drained without the energy that flowed into her fingers.

    His hands were still holding hers to the side, ever so gently. Chloe watched as the crystal fell back to its place in the hollow of her neck: bare and exposed. Her eyes rose to meet his and she gasped at what she saw… the convincing mask of kindness had fallen from Lex’s face, revealing his true nature: a desperate craving for this coveted prize. He sensed her change in mood, and clasped her hands tighter to prevent her from clutching the necklace again. She cried out in pain as he crushed her fingers: she needed to hold the pendant so badly, needed to protect it at all costs.

    She felt him release her left hand and she tried to cover the pendant, but he was too quick. She felt his fingers grab the pendant, and she screamed, the familiar blinding light scorching her eyes, the unbearable pain coursing through her once more…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “I brought you a coffee.”

    Clark looked up at his father, noting the fresh bandage applied to his forehead, and the weary smile in his eyes.

    “Thanks,” he said, taking the offered paper cup. “Here, take a seat.” Clark stood up and walked over to the window in his mother’s room, heard his father’s breath hitch slightly as his aching muscles lowered onto the hard plastic chair beside the hospital bed.

    “Why don’t you get some air, Clark?” said Jonathan. “Take a walk. Go see Lana.”

    “No,” Clark said after a long pause. “I can’t leave mom.”

    “Sure you can, Clark,” his father replied, “I’ll be here in case she wakes up, there’s nothing you can do here right now. She wouldn’t want you to sit here all day: there might be people out there that you can help.”

    “I haven’t done a very good job of that so far. Maybe I’m better stopping in here,” Clark said, almost to himself.

    “What do you mean?” asked Jonathan.

    Clark sighed, his back still turned to his father as the horizontal blinds cast a shadow across his troubled features. I need to tell him, he thought, I can never look him in the face again if I don’t tell him…

    “Clark, tell me what’s wrong…”

    “Do you remember yesterday,” began Clark, still looking out of the window, his back to his father, “when you told me that sometimes, we have to make choices in life… choices that we don’t like?

    “Yeah… Clark, what’s wrong?”

    “I had to make that choice,” Clark said quietly, his eyes falling to the coffee cup where his nails were pressing indentations into the lid. “I had to choose between Lana and Mom… I was standing at a fork in the road, and I knew that I could only save one of them when the quake hit. I think you can guess the rest.”

    His father didn’t reply. Clark heard him sigh, heard him stand up and walk over to the window that overlooked into the corridor. “I’ll understand if you hate me,” said Clark, “I hate me.”

    “Clark,” said Jonathan firmly, turning around to look at him. “You are my son. I love you… I could never hate you.”

    “But you’re disappointed…”

    “No. I’m not disappointed…” Clark heard his father give a frustrated sigh as he mentally ordered his words. “Clark, you are not the reason your mother is lying in that hospital bed.”

    “No,” he replied, turning to look at his father, “but I am the reason why she’s not at the Talon right now serving coffee or at home reading on the porch. I didn’t put her here, but I didn’t keep her safe. It’s the same thing.”

    “You would be standing here no matter what decision you made, the only difference is that it would be Lana lying there and not your mother. You couldn't save them both and you know it.”

    “But what kind of man does that choice make me?” Clark moved away from the window and walked across the room to look through the blinds, out into the corridor. If he closed his eyes he could still have pictured the scene: the sound of rubber soles moving swiftly across the checkerboard floor. Equipment being hastily wheeled from one room to another.

    He could hear the quiet cries of a young girl in a room down the hall, hear her tears falling onto the bed sheets. My life isn’t the only one that’s complicated, don’t start thinking it is…
    Clark turned away from the window and looked at his father again. “I can’t help but feel that Jor-El would be proud of me… I’m starting my mission to rule the world on my own doorstep, destroying lives beginning with my own mother…”

    “Clark, I want you to forget about Jor-El and his twisted schemes. You choose your own path Clark, these times will teach you that lesson above all.”

    “How can you have such faith in me, knowing what I was sent here to do?” Clark took a deep breath before continuing. “Jor-El told me to come back and finish my mission… how do you know that I have a choice in avoiding that?”

    Jonathan stood still for a moment, realizing that it was the first time Clark had mentioned anything about his summer with his birth father. He walked over to stand by his son, placing a hand on his arm. “Forget Jor-El because I am your father and I’m proud of you.”

    He looked at the disbelief in his son’s eyes and squeezed his arm in encouragement. “Don’t you realize, Clark? You had another option: to stand at the fork in the road and do nothing, save neither of them. If you’d have done that, then both Lana and your mother would be lying in here.”

    Jonathan paused for a moment before continuing, “the thing that defines you is not the choice you made, but the fact that you had the strength of character to make a decision... to act on your choice. If you hadn't, they would both be lying in a hospital bed.”

    Clark looked up at his father and gave him a defeated smile. Jonathan returned it, for it was still a smile. He patted his son on the arm and perched himself on Martha’s bed, taking his wife’s hand in his. “So you think your destiny is to rule this world? You think that is Jor-El’s mission?” Clark looked up at him in affirmation.

    “Well son, I agree…”

    “What? How could you…”

    “There are two ways to rule the world, Clark,” interrupted Jonathan, holding up his free hand to stop his son from protesting. “One is with an iron fist: through wars and bloodshed. The other is not to rule, but to lead in a way that the world willingly follows. You lead by example: your courage inspires, your character instills faith. Your strength protects the world from people who would rule it.”

    Clark looked up at his father, a tear sitting on his lashes, his father looking back at him with absolute conviction and unfathomable belief. Clark longed for it to be true. He wished that everything he had learned from the caves, from Jor-El didn’t contradict this reading, but maybe, just maybe, he could make the future his own… in spite of it all.

    “You were sent here to achieve great things Clark,” said Jonathan, “even though there are many paths to greatness, I know that you will pick the right one.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe felt a blinding pain rip through her head. Pure white light seared her eyes, pulsing, over and over. The energy from it made her chest tighten, and it hurt so much when she tried to breathe. Her head needed oxygen, and she started to feel faint as the scene before her played out.

    The white pulses began to slow, and she could see what was happening: they weren’t just random pulses of light generated by the vision. It was much worse. An endless assault of bombs crept up into the sky, leaving a trail of smoke behind them as they disappeared into the clouds. They exploded one after the other, the horizon filled with bright, devastating flashes that signaled the end of the world. She felt herself screaming, felt her jaw widen, though the sound was slow to follow.

    She heard her voice in the distance, climbing in intensity until the shrill, desperate scream was all around her. The bright flashes began to fade with it, the vision began to melt away and she found herself once again in the blackness of the cave, Lex looming over her. His face was full of shock, and he was blinking rapidly to adjust his eyes back to the darkness.

    Chloe saw an opportunity and took it. She pushed him violently away from her with what little strength she had left, and stumbled across the uneven floor. Behind her, she heard Lex cry out as he was sent crashing into the wall, his disorientation making him fall to the floor.

    She knew her freedom wouldn’t last long and she was right. As her eyes searched the blackness for an exit that she knew she couldn’t find, she heard Lex’s footsteps behind her.

    In her panic, she didn’t even have the time to turn around: his left hand reached round and grabbed her neck, his right stretched around her and grabbed the necklace once more: her fingers sank into his arms in the hopes of channeling some of the agony away from her own body, for the searing pain soon returned.

    She could still feel Lex’s hand around her throat, holding her in place, his right arm clutching her pendant. She hesitantly opened her eyes and gasped at what she saw. They were in the Oval Office: Lex, or at least a vision of him, was standing calmly behind a desk, his fists resting upon it, giving him an air of self-importance and a misguided sense of magnificence. He looked straight at her, fixing her terrified gaze in his, and then he calmly, smoothly, walked out from behind the desk, a cocky smile on his face that portrayed something like pride. He opened a door on his right and Chloe could see the world on fire.

    Death, decay… the skies were broken.

    Chloe screamed again, tears streaming down her face. Her body began to feel strange: like being light-headed and a dead weight at the same time. She felt blood rushing from her head, though knew it couldn’t just be the hand that was fixed around her throat. It was something else. Something was pulling the life out of her.

    She felt herself falling, saw the blue and white Presidential crest come up to meet her, but as her face hit the floor, she felt the rough dirt of the cave graze her cheek. Her vision flickered yet again as her eyes adjusted to the blackness. She couldn’t move: being in her own body felt like living in a shell. She didn’t belong there, she was on the inside looking out.

    She felt a presence looming over her, knew it was Lex, knew it was his foot that roughly pushed her over onto her back. She looked up at him: it was so rare to see Lex with an emotion on his face, but here he was, towering above her with the shadows playing over his unmasked features. His true self displayed for her to see: pure rage and selfish need.

    Chloe knew that she was going to die here. There was so little of her left, but what was left was pure Chloe… pure, determined, headstrong Chloe. If she was going to die here, she wasn’t going to do it lying helplessly on the ground. Her eyes fixed on Lex as she felt determination wash over her face. She pulled her legs underneath her and pushed herself up: her arms were like jelly and her hand kept slipping across the ground. She resisted the urge to pull herself up on Lex’s solid form, could feel his stare and it made the hairs stand
    up on the back of her neck.

    Chloe stood before him, her balance was uncertain, her legs almost crippling with the pain, but she straightened her back and looked Lex in the eye.

    “I need more…” he said, slowly, methodically, with a chill in his voice that sent a shiver down her spine.

    “Lex,” she said, cursing the tears that fell once more, “please… I can’t take any more…”

    It felt as though she had nothing left inside her: she was being drained. She remembered something that she read in Lex’s study, about the necklace: ‘a vision for Naman, for only his soul has the strength to feed it. The mortal soul shall be bound by it, and then shall be consumed.’

    So this is what it was like to be consumed… she had been right about the pendant being meant for Naman… only the strength possessed by a character of legend could withstand it. She knew it was almost over…

    “I need more,” Lex repeated, grabbing a handful of her hair, and pulling her weak neck up so that he could look down into her eyes. Her legs gave way and his other arm held her roughly around the waist…

    “No, please…” she cried

    “Everyone was put on this earth to do one thing,” he said, ignoring her plea, “ONE THING! Everyone is here to leave a legacy, now show me mine…”

    There was no more time for protesting. Lex grabbed the pendant once more.

    The vision came in disjointed scenes: death, screams, fire… the scene didn’t disturb Lex; he watched it wide-eyed, liking the feel of the fire that warmed his skin. He saw a flash of light, of fields burning, skies falling, then of polished wood paneling… the parquet floor of his study, the red and white checkered window… Lex felt his blood begin to rush through his veins, his heart racing, pounding in his chest. He saw flashes of himself, clutching at the hand around his throat, lifting him from his feet: his eyes followed the hand and when he reached his attacker’s face, he felt himself gasp.

    Clark.

    And then blackness.

    He found himself in the cave once more. Chloe was unconscious, having fallen back over his arm. Her arms had fallen limply to the side, leaving her necklace exposed.

    There for the taking.

    Lex’s hand instinctively went to it… he needed more… but something made him hesitate, his fingers hovering just above the etched crystal pendant. He was still reeling in the power that he felt, the exhilaration that had been left over from the vision.

    And then nausea; Lex looked back and realized that he had enjoyed watching himself do all those terrible things… had revered the vision of him looking out of the window upon a world on fire, smiling in achievement.

    I will never become my father… I will never become my father…

    Lex repeated the mantra as he closed his eyes and tried to erase the pictures from his mind. He was conflicted: he wanted to know the future so badly it left him with a desperate ache in his stomach, a thirst that could only be quenched by grazing his fingers over the pendant once more… the pendant that was right there, beneath his fingers…

    He looked at Chloe, her head had fallen back, a thin layer of perspiration shone on her forehead: the effort of the visions had been too much for her. Lex held her broken body, contemplating his next move, listening to his conscience as it shouted orders at him:

    Think of all the things you could learn…

    But think of what you’ll become if you kill her…

    Knowledge is power…


    Lex closed his eyes, clenched his fingers shut…

    Kill her and there’s no going back…

    All the things you could learn…


    He felt the chain press into his palm and ripped it from Chloe’s neck. He didn’t stop, didn’t think, just threw the necklace across the cave. Chloe’s eyes jolted open, in time for her to hear the smash echo around them.

    “No!” Chloe screamed. Lex was taken by surprise at the sudden strength that returned to her body. Her arms flailing at him, grasping at the empty hollow of her neck trying to find the necklace.

    “Oh no, no!” she cried, scrambling across the cave to try and find the necklace.

    “It’s gone, Chloe,” he said flatly, realizing that more than just the necklace had gone… so had his chance to learn more about his destiny.

    Chloe was delirious, trying to climb over boulders to reach the small nook where the necklace had smashed. Lex grabbed her arm and pulled her back to the ground. “It’s gone!” he shouted. It was all her fault… if he could have just seen one more vision…

    “How could you?!” she cried, feeling the emptiness, the despair begin to wash over her once again. She began to beat her arms against him as her tears fell.

    “How could you do that?!”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    As soon as the chopper had landed, Jason had headed to the Talon. As he pushed open the glass door, breathing in the familiar scent of pastries and strong coffee, he realized that he wasn’t the only one. Dozens of people were crammed around the small tables, waitresses politely pushed their way through to hand out coffee in mismatched cups, laying plates of food onto the tables. He saw a blonde girl who looked weary, wiping cappuccino foam on her apron as she declined to take the money that was offered to her.

    Jason remained in the foyer as his eyes scanned the room. He watched as Lana added another picture to the makeshift ‘missing persons’ wall. He watched as her eyes fell on a young five-year-old girl who was crying quietly, sitting alone on the bottom step.
    Lana smiled at the young girl and made her way over. She didn’t speak to her, simply pulled her into her arms and soaked up the young tears with her olive green shirt. Jason watched with fascination, remembering the copy of ‘Time’ that Lana had shown him so many months ago. Her little heartbroken face on the cover. It was taken on the day she had lost her parents.

    Jason found himself remembering a conversation they had had in Paris, one perfect moonlit night on the banks of the Seine…

    “I think they would have liked you,” said Lana, “my parents…”

    Jason had smiled: she often mentioned her parents, but this time, for the first time, there was a warmth in her face that came with the recollection.

    “Sometimes I think about what would happen if they were alive and I took you to meet them,” a small smile graced her lips as she continued, “I think my mom would have shown you old kindergarten pictures, and my Dad would have asked you how good you were with a fishing rod. God, he loved to fish, every weekend in the summer.”

    “I’m sure I’d have loved them,” said Jason, steering her over to a park bench that looked out over the black railings onto the still water. “I would have smiled politely at the pictures, not laughing, would have complimented your mom’s cooking, and then I would have talked to your Dad about bait before telling him how much I loved his daughter.”

    Lana laughed at him, a wide, happy smile. She kissed him so tenderly.

    The couple fell silent, listening to the hum of a distant riverboat, to the gentle lapping of the Seine, and to the distant voices that drifted from a rooftop terrace overlooking a nearby alley. Jason looked over at Lana: her hair was up in an elegant pleat, small curled strands fell around her bare shoulders, and danced gently on the warm breeze. The smile had softly melted away from her face, and he watched as a look of contemplation, longing, spread across her face.

    “I hate that they had to leave,” she said.

    “Everybody has to leave at some point,” said Jason softly.

    “I know,” she replied, “and I know I can’t change that, but I’m still so scared of it happening.”

    “If you sit around and wait for everyone to leave you, you won’t appreciate the time that they are with you.”

    Lana looked at him and gave him a smile. “I never said I was rational…”

    “Yeah I know,” said Jason with a sigh, as though with regret. It made Lana laugh at him. “You just need to change your outlook,” said Jason, nudging her shoulder with his and looking out onto the river. He could see that she was looking up at him, waiting for him to continue.

    “You see,” he began, “a person is like a glass of water. When someone comes into your life, they leave a bit of themselves behind: when two things mix like that, you can never separate them. A part of them always remains with you.” He turned to look at her before continuing. “When people leave, there will always be a gap in your life: your glass isn’t as full as it was. But that’s good, because it means you have space to fill. Only selfish people expect their glass to be full to the brim all the time, and they are destined to be disappointed. Once you realise that that’s not how it works, you can concentrate on the new people that you let into your life, and enjoy your time with them.”

    “My boyfriend the philosopher…” she said playfully, looking deep into his eyes. “I love you so much, and I’m so glad that you’re in my life.” She kissed his lips sweetly, her hand cradling his cheek.

    “And I won’t be leaving any time soon…”


    As Jason stood by the pillar in the foyer of the Talon, he remembered his own advice. He had loved Lana so much, but it was right for them not to be together. Everything had an end and they had faced theirs. It warmed him that he could take his own advice, appreciate the time that they had and the imprint she had left on him. Her compassion, her tenderness, and the way she smiled at him would stay with him forever; it would run through him as he allowed other people into his life.

    The scene before his eyes warmed him, it was almost humbling. When he had first met Lana in Paris, in many respects she had been a girl, wanting so desperately to be a young woman yet unable to let go of her past, her insecurities. Jason hoped that his advice from that night by the Seine had helped her become this amazing woman before him: she had such strength within her that he doubted she even realized it yet.

    Lana looked up to the door and her eyes met his, she smiled at him and waved him over. She whispered a few words to the little girl in her arms, and wiped a tear that trickled down her young cheek: she gently shook the little girl’s nose between her thumb and forefinger and pulled a face: the young girl released a high pitched giggle that lifted the mood around them.

    “Hey Jason,” said Lana, standing up to meet him. “How are you… are you hurt?”

    “No, I was in Metropolis, I just flew back when I heard. Are you OK?” he asked, his eyes scanning the marks on her face.

    “Yeah I’m fine, it looks worse than it is,” she said dismissing it with a wave of her hand. “Things are a mess, Jason… some of the older buildings didn’t make it, and people are scared of being in their own homes. Everyone just ended up here.”

    “What about Clark, and Chloe?” asked Jason.

    “I don’t know where Chloe is, I tried calling her but the call’s not getting through,” said Lana, concern in her face, “Clark is at the hospital. His mother was hurt really bad…” her voice tailed off.

    Jason gave her a reassuring smile. “What do you need me to do?”

    She looked up at him, “Can you hold the fort for a little while? There is something that I really need to do. Everyone is pretty calm now, and the girls will sort out the food and drink. I have my cell if you need me.”

    “Sure, go, do what you need to do,” said Jason, shrugging his jacket off. “Don’t worry about a thing… and say Hi to Clark for me.”

    Lana smiled at him in appreciation before grabbing her jacket and moving across to the Talon doors, and out into the street.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lana had thought a lot about Clark, ever since leaving him at the hospital. She hated having to walk away from him, especially when he was so upset, but she had respected his wishes.

    As her car sped down the deserted roads towards the hospital, she remembered her shock at opening her eyes to see Clark: one moment, she had been staring at the shards of plaster falling from the ceiling, at the chandelier that fell down on her. She had thought that it was going to be the last thing that she saw, that horrible vision framed by her arms that she knew could not protect her.

    And then Clark. In the blink of an eye.

    Whenever she needed him, he was always there: she couldn’t explain it. She thought back to the tornado that seemed like a lifetime ago: flying through the air, thinking it was all over, and then Clark. She could have sworn she remembered Clark. She had put it down to a dream, a product of her panicked mind: she dreamed of him often, being in his protective arms, him whispering to her that everything was going to be alright.

    She pulled her car into the hospital parking lot. She jumped down from the cabin and ran across the cracked asphalt and ran to the double doors of the ER. Lana knew that some part of her viewed Clark as a savior: as if he could almost save the world. But who could catch Clark when he was falling?

    She was standing outside the window to Martha’s room now, she saw Clark in there alone, sitting by his mother’s bed. She stood there for a moment to catch her breath. She didn’t make a sound, but Clark looked up, turned to look at her through the window. Lana looked through the glass at him, at his tired, broken expression. She had never seen him look like this. He didn’t acknowledge her, he just turned round once more to look at his mother.

    Lana was resolved now. Her footsteps were quietly determined as she moved over to the door and gently twisted the knob, shutting it carefully behind her so as not to make a noise. She walked straight across to Clark, and in one fluid motion she smoothed her hand across his back, resting it on his shoulder. She didn’t speak to him, didn’t need to.

    So there Lana stood, wordlessly by Clark’s side, her hand on his shoulder as his weight pressed against her body, his strong frame craving the support. He hadn’t called for her, had even tried to push her away on her first visit, but Lana had known that she needed to be here…

    People who need help the most rarely asked for it.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe was not one for introspection. It was a characteristic that ran contrary to her very nature. Her purpose in life was to look outwards, expose others for what they were. Write the truth about them. Her life mattered little.

    Yet in these caves, everything had changed. That resolve that held the mirror outwards had broken, and it fell back upon her: showed her for what she was. A fragile body, hugging her legs, her back pressed against a boulder for comfort. How she longed to be in someone’s arms. Wished she were a child again, for when a child cries, an adult comes to comfort it, to shelter it from that which makes it sad… offers protection from the thing that
    breaks its heart.

    And Chloe’s heart was broken. Not from love, or from longing, for those things could heal with time. No, it was as though her ability to feel comfort, the warm embrace of life, the joy of a cherished memory, had been ripped from her piece by piece.

    She could remember her life before the necklace: she felt like Dorothy, looking out of a black-and-white life into a world of color, but the window that Chloe looked through was unbreakable. She couldn’t get back to that life no matter how hard she tried, so she just stood there with her forehead pressed against the glass, remembering... She remembered the absence of fear, her confidence, conviction, her perception of how sharp and vivid life could be…

    It was such a contrast to the black, damp surroundings of the cave; such a contrast with the darkness that had veiled her soul ever since Lex had ripped the necklace from her. It felt like she was trapped in that imaginary, greyscale life, standing at the threshold of normality but unable to cross of her own volition. Someone would need to pull her across, and presently there weren’t any takers. Not even any idle passers-by to spare a glance in her direction, to acknowledge she was there.

    Chloe looked up at Lex. His back was turned to her as he stood quietly at the other side of the clearing. She wondered what was going through his mind: she could feel the air around him was tense, as though beneath his mask stirred a torrent of confused emotion. But his mask was a fragile cage, and he looked ready to burst out, run at the walls screaming and clawing his way back to daylight. Locking this whole experience in this dark, damp hole to never think of it again.

    Suddenly the cave seemed very small, claustrophobic. Chloe heard a sound that comforted her, and realized it was her own voice, speaking quietly into the darkness.

    “Before I came around, after the first vision, I had a nightmare Lex,” she said, not thinking about the words before they came out, “you were standing over me, trying to kill me. I don’t think it was a nightmare, I think it was a vision of things to come. It happened Lex. It came true.”

    Lex didn’t move, he continued to stand there.

    “I saw you in that last vision, Lex,” she said, “standing in the oval office: I was there too.”

    Chloe took a deep, shaky breath. It felt good to get this out, it was too big to suppress, and she wished she were as practiced at concealment as the man standing before her. “The sky was burning and you were smiling,” she continued, “to you, it wasn’t tragedy, it was achievement. You had destroyed your enemy, won the war. You thought it was your destiny to win so you didn’t mind that the world paid the price. Everyone else lost Lex. Everyone.”

    Lex half turned his head to look over his shoulder, but said nothing. He looked forward again, left her looking at the back of his head. You’ll never know how close I came… he thought to himself. How much I needed to know. I still need to know…

    “Lex…” Chloe called, waiting for a response that didn’t come. “Lex will you at least look at me?”

    He remained still and unresponsive and Chloe felt a wave of frustration that played on her already fragile heart.

    “Oh I see,” said Chloe, her words were cutting, laced with anger, “let your feelings slip but never your mask – that’s the Luthor way, isn’t it Lex? But you know what? You messed up, because I saw… I saw.”

    Still nothing.

    “You can’t hide from this Lex, it will destroy you… you know what? It’s like a cut. Its deep and ugly it hurts like hell, but you can’t cover it up: sometimes it needs to breathe…”

    Chloe found herself still staring at his back.

    “Damn you Lex, why won’t you talk to me?!”

    “And what exactly do you want me to say?” came his response, tainted with sarcasm.

    Chloe paused, shrinking back into herself. Maybe she should have left him alone. Lex was still waiting for her answer, and her voice was quiet as she gave it: “that everything’s going to be OK.”

    She hated being this weak, inwardly cringed at the sound of her own voice. She was Chloe Sullivan, the girl who needed no one, relied on little and never needed fake reassurances.

    Everything was so brittle: Lex had almost shattered before her eyes, and he had hastily papered over the cracks and turned his back on her so that she couldn’t see the scars.

    She thought back to the visions that they had shared. She had seen everything…

    It was at that moment that Chloe realized something. Lex had been on the brink of self-discovery: he had needed to know his fate just as she had craved the necklace’s power.

    He had given that up. He’d given it up to save her… he had made such a sacrifice: how could she ever repay that?

    She was still but a shade of her former self, but she found herself clinging to the one thought that could lift her out of this despair, this feeling of emptiness and self-loathing that had convinced her she didn’t matter to anyone. To the one thought that brought pit-of-the-stomach happiness to someone who felt so inconsequential:

    She had been saved.

    She had been worth saving.


    And in that moment she knew how to repay him. If Lex was standing on the threshold between his life and a dark place, then she would be the one to stretch a hand out to him, to pull him from the shadows.

    “Lex, you’re Sageeth aren’t you?” her voice seemed to spark something within him, and he turned around to face her as she continued quietly. “It all makes sense, the dreams I’ve been having, visions, this feeling in the pit of my stomach…”

    “Is it fear?” he asked, flatly.

    “Should it be?”

    Lex pursed his lips as his jaw stretched; he began to take small steps across the clearing, making his way to the far side of the clearing. Chloe watched his face, the glimmer of contemplation that shone from it. “I used to think that the road to darkness was a journey, not a light switch,” he said, “but now I’m not so sure. If you know the destination, what good is the journey? Flick the switch and get it over with…”

    Chloe shook her head assuredly. “You are capable of great things Lex, it’s up to you to decide how you achieve them, whether your methods are good or evil. There will always be forks in the road Lex, you always have a choice: you’re feeling guilty right now – that means you have a conscience, and as long as you have that, you have to have faith in yourself to make the right choice, to avoid that destination.”

    “I needed to know more, and it almost killed you,” he replied, trying to contradict her, “I thought that if I had more knowledge, it would stop me turning into my father. It would stop me falling…” he knew he had said too much, and looked away from her, stopping mid-
    sentence.

    “A noose stops the hanged man from falling, Lex.”

    “Are you saying that I’m condemned?”

    “No,” she replied, “I’m saying that sometimes, the thing that stops you from falling isn’t always a good thing.”

    “So I’m supposed to accept this darkness inside me?”

    “You’re supposed to find another way to deal with it. I don’t want you to fall, Lex, but I don’t want you to become your father in the process of trying to avoid it.” She shuddered as the memory of the ruthless Lex from the vision flashed before her: those unfeeling, cold blue eyes… the smile on his face… she shook her head to quickly push the image aside.
    Lex smiled to himself, and Chloe breathed a sigh of relief. “You know,” he said, “Freidrich Neitzche once said that.”

    “Yeah well, Chloe Sullivan said it too, and I might not have authored Beyond Good and Evil, but I have a pair of eyes and women’s intuition, which means I can see what is happening and know where it’s heading. Trust me on this.”

    They were interrupted by the sound of rocks falling near the entrance. The loud mechanical sound of a drill tore through the stillness of the caves. Chloe was on her feet in an instant and following Lex over to the entrance. They saw the flicker of light as a large section of rock fell to the ground.

    “Mr Luthor?” shouted a man’s voice.

    “Jensen! I’m in here…” Lex breathed a sigh of relief.

    “Sir, move back we’re going to unblock the doorway…”

    Lex turned around and came face to face with Chloe. He halted, looking down at her. He took a deep breath and gave her a cursory half-smile before moving around her, back into the clearing.

    Chloe followed him, away from the entrance and the sounds of digging. Their conversation was far from over. Sooner or later, the time would come for them to finish it.

    No matter how much Lex may have wished it, she couldn’t forget what she had seen.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark heard Chloe’s car pull from the road, down the dirt track to the farm. He listened as she got out, telling herself that she could do this… have this conversation with him. He listened as her footsteps climbed the stairs to the loft and he turned round to meet her hesitant smile, painting a look of surprise on his face.

    “Hey Clark,” began Chloe.

    “Hey,” said Clark, wondering how this conversation was going to play out. The last time they had spoken on the phone there had been something different about Chloe, something she wasn’t telling him. Their fight had hurt him.

    “I called by the hospital and saw your mom,” said Chloe, “I’m glad she’s going to be OK.”
    “It’s going to take some time,” said Clark. “She woke up earlier today and the first thing she said was for me to go home and get some rest.”

    “Yeah, that sounds like your mom,” smiled Chloe, resting her back against a large wooden pillar. “I just… I just wanted to come by to see if we were OK,” she said, gesturing to the two of them.

    Clark perched himself on the arm of his sofa. “We both said some things.”

    “I know,” she said quietly. She had been so hurt by his words, and doubted whether he would ever know. Chloe had always been insecure around Lana: she had no hope of ever matching the brunette’s relationship with Clark. She had worked hard to call Lana her friend, and could now say it with honesty: they hadn’t always been close, but Chloe and Lana were friends. With one comment, Clark had brought all of her insecurities back: not only had he failed to help her as promised with her interview at the mansion, but he had blown her off for a date with Lana, then had the cheek to ask if she was jealous of her friend.

    Chloe sighed. She had wanted to tell him about her gifts so badly, found that the words had stuck in her throat. Being accused of spying on a friend would do that to a person. He didn’t deserve to know. She was here to make peace with him, but wasn’t here to say sorry.

    “Do you ever think your life would be simpler if I wasn’t in it?” she asked.

    Clark thought about her question. “Sometimes.”

    “So if I complicate your life why are we here?”

    “Because an easy life where you have everything you want wouldn’t be real.”

    “But would it matter if you were happy?” asked Chloe, “if everyone you cared about was with you?”

    “Sometimes I dream of living in a perfect world… where Lana and I are uncomplicated, her parents are still around, Lex is happy…”

    Chloe felt the corners of her mouth sour as she noted that, once again, he didn’t include her in his perfect world. Another grudge she held against him. “And let me guess,” she added, “even the roses smell sweeter, right?”

    Clark smiled at her, his eyes becoming distant as he slipped into a daydream. “Sometimes I feel like I’d give anything to live there.”

    “Face it Clark,” said Chloe, her voice harsher than before. “This,” she said, gesturing around her, “is your life. It is complicated, and that’s what makes it real. Life will always be full of secrets, ones that you keep, and ones that you want to find out. It’s human nature to want a perfect life, but at the same time to make our own lives so complicated and so far from idyllic… we choose the life we lead. We are who we are. We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and enjoy what is right in front of us.”

    Clark looked at the young woman before him. She was right, life was complicated, full of secrets. He found himself wondering how she would react if he told her his secret… right here, just told her flatly about his superpowers. It would take him a step closer to that ‘idyllic’ life he had dreamed of where everyone knew his secret, and everyone accepted it.

    He quickly stamped out the impulsion.

    He wasn’t ready for that yet.

    “You’re a good friend Chloe,” he said, genuinely. “I wouldn’t want to live in a world without you in it. I’m sorry for the secrets that I keep from you, but I need you to understand that there are some things that need to stay with me. I can’t share them… with anyone.”

    Chloe was quiet for a moment, her eyes cast down to the wooden floor of the loft. She realized that she needed to take her own advice: life wasn’t perfect. If her experience in the caves had taught her anything, it was how seductive knowledge can be, how it can twist your mind into thinking you deserve to know something whatever the cost.

    “Where’s your necklace?” asked Clark, his voice gentle, but pulling her from her thoughts.

    Chloe’s hand went to her neck, her fingers grazing her bare, unadorned skin. “I lost it in the quake…”

    Chloe surprised herself at how easily the half-truth tumbled from her lips. Her eyes fixed upon his and she felt her face return his smile. She watched as he made his way over to her, felt her arms return his hug as he pulled her close and rested his chin on her head.

    No, life certainly wasn’t perfect, and as soon as she realized that it became tolerable. She heard a dark voice whisper in her head as she felt Clark’s blue plaid shirt against her cheek.
    Keep your secrets, Clark, it whispered, and I’ll keep mine.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The sound of cracking metal echoed around the study as Lex opened a fresh bottle of Port wood Glenmorangie, pouring a generous amount into the heavy crystal tumbler. Even the smell of it made his throat tingle in anticipation.

    To all intents and purposes, everything was right with the world. The breastplate had been retrieved and was now being escorted by his security team to the Louvre, in time for the grand unveiling. Chloe seemed to be free of her gifts. Martha was on the road to recovery, and was due to be seen by his specialists from Metropolis in the next few hours. Clark was none the wiser…

    He made his way across to the sofa but didn’t sit down; he walked by it slowly, running his finger slowly across the impeccable Italian stitching. The mansion was quiet, eerily quiet.

    He had given his staff the day off, telling them to be with their families after the quake, though in truth, he had wanted more than anything to be alone. His father was thankfully still in Metropolis and wasn’t due back until tomorrow, so Lex found himself in the company of nothing but an imported bottle of Scotch and his own thoughts…

    The visions that he had seen in the caves were still vivid in his mind. He closed his eyes and saw a flash of the breastplate, the burning skies, the Presidential crest.

    “Bribing the media and not giving a straight answer, ever thought of going into politics?”

    Chloe’s ironic question seemed like it had been posed a lifetime ago. How very ‘in the dark’ his life had been then. He’d had no idea about the discovery he was about to make.

    He was Sageeth.

    Of course, he had always considered the possibility: after the incident with the Starblade, part of him had wanted Sageeth to be his father, but the other part had wanted the title for himself. He didn’t know which opinion had been more dominant, but it didn’t matter now anyway. He knew the truth. He knew his destiny.

    Lex moved over to his desk, looked at the small wooden box that sat there. He flipped open the lid and cast his eyes over the jagged piece of crystal that lay embedded in the purple velvet. The etched pyramid with an oval in the middle was cut in half, the other piece was shattered, irretrievably mixed with the ashen dirt of the Kawatche caves.

    As he traced the contours of the symbol with his free hand, he wondered if he should be worried about the dark path that stretched before him. Part of him wanted to believe Chloe when she said that he could choose a different path, but then again, maybe he wanted to make that journey. Chloe had described the future as a war, the war… his battle with Naman. As he took another swig of Scotch, he resigned himself to the fact that he was Sageeth, and that, one day, he would find his Naman.

    He found comfort in this: Lex was never one to back away from a challenge. He would always find a way to bring down his enemy. He always found a way. He realised he looked forward to finding Naman, for only a battle with an equal would prove him worthy. It would be his key to glory. His path to greatness.

    Lex shut the wooden lid and bid goodbye to the pendant, for now. He remembered Chloe’s words:“I don’t want you to become your father in the process of trying to avoid it.”

    He had often focused on that passage of Beyond Good and Evil, sitting up on his balcony trying to suppress his darker thoughts. Though as he stood alone in his study, contemplating his destiny, he remembered another passage, one that brought him more comfort. He allowed a smile to rest on his lips as he swallowed the remaining Scotch, whispering Neitzche’s words to the empty study:

    “Become who you are…”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    End of Episode 12

  2. #2
    An Accused Heretic Senior Member Kit Merlot's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 12 -"Fragile" (PG)

    Man, but the Chlex argument in the caves was absolutely hardcore!

    And how much did I love Clark's turning away from Lana when he realized that in saving the her, his mother was badly injured?
    Last edited by Kit Merlot; 21st October 2009 at 03:23.
    KATHY

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  3. #3
    NS Full Member TrinityR's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 12 -"Fragile" (PG)

    LOVE ITT!!! This chapter is so far the best! Love the conversation between Chloe and Lex. Love the idea of her trying to make him a better man

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