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Obsessions

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter 10

 

Decker slapped him awake, grinning down with his mad eyes and his feral smile.

"Got the current all hooked up and she packs a nice little zap. I think you'll like it." Insane. Absolutely stark raving mad.

Lex blinked up, mouth so dry his tongue felt like sandpaper in his mouth. There was the feel of something large inside him, that he didn't remember Decker inserting.

"Please - - water." His voice was a raw whisper.

Decker's grin widened. "Sure. Got to keep your strength up for today. Got a lot of kinks to work out on the new toy."

He disappeared, came back with a plastic bottle of water, lifted up Lex's head and slipped the mouth of the bottle between his lips. Tilted it up and let him drink. He had to swallow fast or loose a great deal of the room temperature water flooding his mouth. Decker opened a second bottle, one of the protein shakes, and let him swallow that down as well.

Decker uncuffed him from the bed, recuffed him and led him to the shower. Morning ritual. Lex was getting used to the enemas. Used to the scrubbing. The pain in his penis was muted and when he looked down there were the faintest marks of mostly healed pricks in a uniform band around the base.

The thing in his ass got pulled out. He didn't even see what it was, just felt the burn as it stretched him exiting. He'd felt worse. It made him nervous that nothing replaced it, not even Decker. The man usually got his first rape of the morning in during the shower.

Decker gripped him by the cuffs and pulled him across the room to the waist high contraption that he'd built. There were a couple of car batteries sitting on a little table up by the head of the rack, with jumper cables attached to one metal leg. All it would take to send current through the entirety of the thing would be touching the positive feed to the battery stump.

God. His legs stopped working and Decker looked back with a frown, latching hold of his upper arm and jerking him forward by main force alone.

"Please. Please - - whatever you want - - I'm not fighting you - -just - - no."

"No's not in your new vocabulary, Lex. I thought I made that clear."

It was crudely constructed, Decker's rack. Thick metal pipes wielded together to form dubious support. One near the top, one that would hit him about mid back, and then nothing until the side bars swung out to form the Y sections. There were leather straps there made for securing his legs. Chains with clips resting across the bar near where his shoulders would rest, that draped out across the floor maybe eight feet, looped through an eye bolt and trailed back to a winch with a handle under the rack. It wasn't exactly to medieval specification, but hit on points here and there that would have made an inquisitor proud.

He fought it, cold stark panic lending an overtaxed body new strength.

"Wait! Wait - - you don't have to do this - -"

Decker wrapped his arms around him and hauled him bodily up, slammed him down onto it hard enough that the bar around mid-back drove the breath out of him. Decker grabbed an ankle, fastened the cuff to the waiting clip at the end of the Y-section and Lex was fucked. No way to twist free as Decker caught his other leg, forced it into place and secured the ankle cuff.

Lex hissed then, half way to hyperventilating, the damned bar biting into his back, another one at his shoulders, and nothing supporting his lower back but the bars his legs were resting on.

Decker grabbed one of the chains and attached it the outside ring of his right wrist cuff, then unfastened his wrists and clipped the other chain to the left one. He crouched down, and turned the winch and the slack in the chain drew tight. Another couple of turns and Lex felt the strain in his shoulders, felt his body draw taut. The bar across his back was sheer agony, forcing his ribcage up and out.

Satisfied with the tension on the chains, Decker rose plucked a gag from the table with the batteries, a round metal O that he wedged behind Lex's teeth. It prevented him from closing his mouth, keeping it uncomfortably wide and vulnerable. Decker dropped his head after buckling it on, and with no support past his shoulders it left him facing Decker's crotch upside down at mouth level. Decker moved to his legs then, cinching leather straps around his upper thighs and below his knees to keep his legs securely fastened to the Y-sections.

He sprang a latch that Lex heard but couldn't see and the leg supports swung loose, spreading his legs wide. Leaving him utterly vulnerable at both ends. He shut his eyes, feeling the blood rush to his head, every muscle in his body tensile taut.

"I'll do what you want. Whatever you want." He swung his head, staring at the batteries in dread. "You want me to crawl - - I'll do it. Just don't - -" he was babbling, he knew he was babbling. He had no stance from which to negotiate. Nothing Decker wanted that he couldn't take by force.

He didn't know what he'd done, who he'd fucked over so badly in his life to warrant this epic bitch slap karma was giving him. Unless he was getting bleed off from his father's bad deeds, which was probable, the real world reveling in the concept of original sin. Ironic really, since he'd been trying to do the right things since he'd been here. Really trying to straighten out his life, to make a difference in this shithole of a town, even if the impetus to do so had been born from the desire to impress a boy. To ingratiate himself to a fucking fifteen year old with the most beautiful face he'd ever seen on a walking breathing human being.

Clark. Tears were making little streaks down his temples, and he didn't know when he'd started shedding them. Decker ran his hands up his body, fingers splayed wide over the taut skin of his belly. His nails grazed the jut of his ribcage. He leaned down, stuck his tongue in his navel. Thrust it a few times, a parody of fucking. Might as well, he'd violated every other hole in his body.

He came back around to Lex's head, crouched down and caught his face between his hands, covered his open mouth with his and leisurely explored the cavity with his tongue, reached down while he was doing it and gave the wench one more half turn.

Lex choked and spasmed, all he could do when his limbs were stretched so tight. He felt it in his hips and shoulder, spine, wrists and ankles.

"You're beautiful like this." Decker said, rising, moving down his quaking body, trailing a hand over tightly stretched skin. He ran a nail down the center of Lex's chest to his navel. Did it again, staring with glittering, mad eyes, like he was contemplating splitting him open. Circled him once more, just looking, then went to the battery table and casually touched positive feed to positive feed and the rack came alive with current.

Lex screamed, not even able to arch with the shock, the electricity stealing everything for the brief, blinding moment it coursed through his body. Garbled, wet sounds were coming from somewhere. Oh, from him, from his gaping mouth, drool running down the sides of his face mixing with the tears.

He made a feeble attempt at pleading. No. No. No, came out warped and unintelligible past his spread lips. Decker sighed, stroking himself through his pants.

"Its so good," he squeezed himself harder, knuckles white. "You make me so hard when your skin twitches." He bent down again, licked Lex's face, then pulled out his cock and slid it into his mouth. The head poked the roof his mouth, slid along to the back of his throat. The angle made an easy path for it to slip right down, and Decker's fingers stroked the bulge in his esophagus while Lex choked.

He thrust a few times, then pulled out without coming.

Lex's head dropped back, he couldn't keep it up and blood rushed down, making him dizzy, the discomfort was swelling, the bar in his back, the strain on his muscles, his joints. The cuffs were pulled so taught against the swell of his palms that he couldn't quite clench his fists.

Decker was between his legs, hands running the length of his legs, stroking the tendons on the inside of his thighs. He fondled his balls, shifting them in their sack, but there was probably no stimulation on earth that could get him hard in this particular situation.

He tried to lift his head to see what the bastard was up to, but the angle was wrong and the strain on his shoulders and neck too much to keep it up for long.

"When you were a kid, just starting Excelsior, I never thought you'd turn out like this. But by the time you hit sixteen, seventeen you turned smoking hot." He moved in close, cock rubbing between the cleft of Lex's ass. Just sliding up and down without any effort to penetrate. "Knew it too, didn't you? Fucked everything on two legs, just to piss off your daddy. You think he didn't know what you were up to?"

Decker chuckled, slid a hand up his stomach again, like he couldn't get enough of the feel of Lex stretched taut. He moved out, back around to the battery table and Lex whimpered, waiting for the shock.

It didn't come. He picked up a few things, the clink of metal, and walked back around between Lex's legs. Laid whatever he'd picked up on Lex's belly, then stroked Lex's flaccid cock, but there was no stirring it.

"He knew," Decker went on conversationally. I reported every nameless whore you fucked in the back of a club, or your car or any other place you went to practice your little rebellions. And yeah, you pissed him off, until he figured he might as well make a profit from your bad habits."

He lifted his head again, trying to see the man's face, trying to gauge how much truth was spilling from his lips.

Decker's fingers pinched the head of his penis, and something cold and metal pressed against the slit. He could barely twitch his hips, much less struggle. He made little choking noises as Decker slid it in, impaling his cock on what had to be a urethra sound. It burned like a bitch, an entirely new sort of stretch. And that notion he'd had earlier about every hole he had being violated - - well, it hadn't occurred to him that this one was an issue.

He dropped his head back, gasping, barely heard Decker talking again through the pounding in his head. "Remember that party out at the Kalabash club your daddy made you go to with him, when you were in junior year at Excelsior? The one where the suit with the vintage Rolls chatted you up, slipped you a few drinks when the bartender wouldn't serve you, then took you out to the parking lot and fucked you in the back of that big old car? You remember that, Lex? You know what your daddy got for it? Insider information that made him a bundle. That was a million dollar fuck if ever there was one."

Lex went cold, the pain from the rod in his dick vying for dominance as he absorbed what Decker was saying. That Lionel had known what he was doing was a given. That he knew details was disturbing. That he'd decided to use it to his advantage - - that he'd arranged for a pick up - - sold him for the chance to make a stock market coup - - well, maybe it wasn't quite so shocking a notion after all. Fuck. Just - - Fuck.

Decker tightened his grip around the stalk of Lex's cock and squeezed, compressing his flesh around the intruder. He shut his eyes and panted through the pain.

"Wasn't the only time," Decker slid another something cold and hard over his penis, pushed his nuts through another metal ring and started twisting little screws to tighten them up. Mild constriction at the base of his cock, another ring about half way up, another under the head. Not a problem now, but if he did get an erection it would hurt like a bitch.

"I can count off at least two three other times he arranged for some guy to pick you up - - or let you think you'd done the picking. It wasn't like you were choosey back then, huh? 'Cept for the old man. Remember him? What was he, some big ass banker that your daddy was trying to get a loan from for those towers he was building in Chicago. Fat, wrinkly old geezer he brought home to wine and dine. What was his name? Gletchner?"

Lex vaguely recalled. He'd still been living in the penthouse then - - it had been weeks maybe before he'd talked his way into his own place. His father had brought the man home, introduced him. Insisted Lex sit down and learn a little of how casual business was conducted. There'd been brandy, which Lionel didn't mind him drinking if it was in his company. He'd only had problems with the clubbing and the consumption out on the town where a son of his might be caught illegally partaking and the bad press might fall back on him.

The old banker had been fat and disgusting, and there had been no sex or mention there of. God, no. He must have left soon after, because he honestly didn't recall much more than the initial meeting.

The rustling of Decker's pants snapped him back to the present, the press of his cock against his ass, then the slow push inside. He'd lubed himself up, and it was an easy entry. The man sighed, thrusting a few times, long and deep.

"Your daddy dosed your drink himself," Decker said. "Had that smarmy little manservant he had at the time help get you upstairs and let the fat old perv fuck you in your own room. While he sat down there and drank his brandy and conducted a little business over the phone. Ain't that something? But those towers went up in Chicago, didn't they. Got interest rates on those loans like you wouldn't believe."

Breath that was already constricted stalled in his lungs. Stuttered back with the rhythm of Decker's thrusts. Betrayal. Betrayal on a scale beyond trying to fuck over his attempts to build up his own company, beyond sleeping with his lovers, beyond even making a little profit off a liaison that Lex really had thought he'd initiated himself. Drugging and selling him for special consideration on a billion dollar loan. In his own house - - where he was supposed to have been safe, but never really had been.

Tears were flowing again and he couldn't stop them. Everything shattering and slipping away, and God it hurt - - despite everything his father had ever done, every cruel word, every Machiavellian lesson - - he hadn't expected this. The pain in his body was suddenly a very welcome distraction.

"If you weren't such a filthy slut, maybe he wouldn't have done it." Something in the man's voice changed, the conversational tone edged out by a tense sort of rage. Flash flood reversal like a switch had been flipped inside his head. Lex felt a curl of dread. The thrust of his hips became harder, his fingers began biting into the flesh of Lex's thighs. "If you weren't such a dirty whore, I wouldn't have had to track down those cheap lays of yours and slit them open. Wouldn't have had to take out that boy you seemed to like so much. Your fault, Lex. All your fault. I made him scream while we were waiting for you. Want to hear all the places I stuck that knife?"

Oh, God. God. God. Please no. He didn't want to hear. Didn't want to know. Didn't want to live with the guilt that he'd done this to Clark. His fault. Decker was right on that count. His trouble that had sucked Clark in and snuffed him out.

Decker pulled out abruptly. Stalked around the rack mumbling softly to himself, fatigues spread low around his hips, cock hard and bouncing as he walked.

He crouched by Lex's head, unbuckled the gag and gripped his face tight between his hands.

"Tell me what a dirty whore you are."

Lex blinked at him, upside down. Whatever shreds of sanity the man had had in his eyes before were gone now. There was just that fanatic gleam, like he was an apostle on a mission from some twisted god. Maybe he thought he was.

"Say it, Lex!" he roared. "Tell me what you are."

"I'm a dirty whore." He was too exhausted not to. It didn't matter anyway.

"Again."

"I'm a dirty whore."

"And what happens to dirty whores?" Decker's spittle hit him in the face.

"I don't know." Bare whisper.

"They get punished. They get punished and then they burn."

Decker released his head, went for the batteries and current lanced through the rack. Lex screamed until his throat bled, and when unconsciousness wrenched him in its teeth, he preyed he wouldn't wake up.


 

Even unconscious the current still made Lex's body lurch. But his head was hanging limp and his mouth was slack. The only slack part of him, stretched like a strung bowstring on the rack. It was the only thing that soothed the voices clamoring in Decker's head for him to keep shooting voltage into Lex's body. That urged him to take a sharp knife and score a line down the center of that taut belly so he could see the glistening meat under the skin.

He pushed the voices aside, reminding them, dead was dead. And there was only so long he could enjoy a corpse. And Lex had value. Lex was precious to him, even if he was sullied past the point of redemption. Lex was his, in a way that no other living thing had ever been. His to make suffer and crawl and pay for his willful degradations. To pay for his father's betrayal.

Grind him under his heel and turn him into something barely human, the voices whispered. Shatter his beautiful mind and he'd be more than obedient, he'd be broken. A smooth skinned, groveling fucktoy that Decker could enjoy until the voices got their way and he snuffed out the light behind the eyes. They clamored now, urging it. Needing it, suggesting all the varied ways he could carry it out and make it linger.

Dead was dead, he reminded himself, aware on some level that the voices were getting stronger.

Decker drew in deep, calming lungfuls of air.

He needed to go out. Find some one deserving, and quench his need for blood. Get it out of his system to keep from permanently damaging Lex. Lex's boy had been cathartic. Puncturing his firm flesh and blowing out his skull had appeased the clamoring in Decker's head, but that had been almost three weeks ago, and the pressure was building again. Maybe even Lionel Luthor finally deserved that visit. Finally deserved personal payback for his betrayal. Decker had been waiting, wanting to have Lex for a good long time, let the old man suffer wondering - - but maybe he'd waited long enough. Maybe he'd let the old man know what he'd been doing to his son. Whisper a few details before he took him out.

He yanked on his still hard cock. Stepped over the chains stretching Lex's arms and shoved his dick into his slack mouth. Fucked it ruthlessly, until the grip of his throat made him come. He pulled out not wanting Lex to choke on his come when he wasn't awake to swallow and spilled on his face. Let his head drop and thought that he needed some sort of support for the neck, to hold the head up when he wasn't using the mouth, if he was going to keep him on the rack for hours on end. And he liked the rack. Liked the way Lex's body looked on it. Thought it might be his favorite new diversion.


Things were starting to blur. Vision, thoughts. It took a series of slaps to make him focus and even then it was hard to get past the cloying static clogging his brain.

He swayed, all his weight on his wrists, leather biting into flesh, legs unable to hold him up. He half recalled Decker stringing him up. Had barely been aware of the rape when the man thrust into him. The world was spinning and the pain was distant today.

Decker wasn't happy with his passive reaction, slapped him a few more times, trying to get reaction. Hit him in the soft parts of his body with a closed fist, until he whimpered brokenly and swam in and out of blackness. Welcome void since sleep of late had been elusive and erratic. Filled with lurid nightmares broken only by the constant starts of terror when he thought he heard the step of the man on the stair.

He didn't remember how long Decker had been at him yesterday - - last night? - - a multiple of days?- - perfecting his rack, but Lex thought it might have broken something in him. Something integral. He'd been able to keep his head above water before, even if it had been a struggle. He was drowning now. And it was black and rancid and he couldn't find the strength to fight it any longer.

He'd been a mess when Decker finally pulled him off the rack. Something a little less than human, voice just gone from the screaming, higher mentality ripped away. Spasming uncontrollably on the floor at his tormentor's feet while the man called him names and made him repeat them until he almost believed them himself.

He'd wept. Halfway between miserable awareness and plague filled sleep, he'd wept, a legion of horrors whirling in his head. Not least among them, his father's betrayal and his own culpability in Clark's death. Clark would have been the only one who cared enough about him personally to give a shit if he never came back. God knew Lionel could find a woman and sire another heir if push came to shove. If he weren't already in the process, impatience getting the better of him. Just as well, Lex had always been a disappointment anyway. How long before he stopped looking entirely? Gave Lex up for dead and went on with his life? Had he already? How long had it been? He had no idea.

Clark wouldn't have stopped. Clark wouldn't have given up on him, no matter how much he might have deserved being given up on. Clark always came back. Always forgave him. Always made him forget the questions burning a hole in him, when he looked at him with those big eyes and that brilliant smile.

Clark was dead. Bits of bone and brain spattered across his perfect face. And there was no one coming.

"What's the matter, fun time with the rack spoil you for everything else?" Decker wanted to know. "You like the feel of electricity running through your body?"

Metal touched his skin, soft part of the belly above the hip and Lex only half saw the shape of the prod before the jolt hit him.

He spasmed, rattling the chains and sobbed Clark's name.

It pissed Decker off. His face twisted and he raged. "Stop calling that fucking freak's name."

And maybe he had a little resistance left in him after all, or maybe it was just a perverse need for punishment, but when Decker hit him again with the prod, he threw back his head and screamed Clark's name again, the one sacred thing he'd had in his life more precious than money or power. Decker could strip him of everything else, pride, humanity, make him crawl and beg, but he couldn't take that away.


Clark had taken to standing in the yard. Had wandered out one day and just stood in Martha's flowerbed, face turned up to the sun and stood. Close to three weeks and he still wasn't responding to much of anything. Not speaking, not eating, not even sleeping now that he was awake - - if you could call what he was awake - - eyes as distant as a person's eyes could be.

They could get him to move with a little firm pressure on his arms, but that was about all they do with him. It was like his mind had shut down and put his body on autopilot. Catatonic, Martha called it. Jonathan fretted he'd never come out of it.

He'd sit there at night, when they'd gotten Clark inside, watching his boy stare at nothing, and just mourn. Clench his hand around his beer and curse the fate that had done this to them. Curse the man that had.

Until Martha would come and ease the empty long necked bottle out of his hand, and spur him into motion, into doing what needed doing, getting Clark upstairs, washed up and into bed, even though he never closed his eyes. Waste of time, but it made Martha feel like she was accomplishing something. Made her feel like they were making some sort of headway, even though Jonathan feared that they weren't.

Chloe kept coming by, even though they'd asked her not to. She'd heard from God knew what sources at the sheriff's station, about Clark being in shock. About them trying to talk to him and him not responding. She'd brought Lana with her the first time, and they'd thought, well, why not try and see if the presence of the girls, of Lana in particular, might be enough to spur some reaction out of Clark. It wasn't like the sheriff and the federal agent hadn't already seen him and documented his condition. And all the wounds were gone, healed like they'd never been.

So they'd brought them in, let them sit there and talk at Clark while Clark stared through them. Lana had been upset. Visibly upset and shaken. But Chloe had sat there with a frown line between her brows and kept talking. Stubborn and persistent and worried, what with Clark paying her no heed.

Lana didn't come back the next time with her. And Clark had been outside when she'd driven up, standing with his face to the sun like a statue in the back yard.

"I just want to talk to him," she'd argued when Jonathan had asked her to just give them time to deal with Clark on their own. "If I keep talking at him, he'll eventually get annoyed and tell me to stop."

She was desperately concerned about her friend and it broke Jonathan's heart. Still there was nothing normal about this state Clark was in and ingrained habit made them cling to their privacy and secrecy when it had to do with Clark.

Pete came a few times, but Clark's vacant stare spooked the boy into stuttering apologies and cutting visits short.

When child protective services came by in the shamed-faced company of Sheriff Ethan, sicked on them by either the federal authorities or the school system, or hell, even the doctor that had come by at the urging of the authorities early on, Jonathan got pissed. Martha had to take hold of his arm and physically haul him into another room when the holier than though little shit had threatened to get a court order and have Clark removed to a facility better suited to dealing with severe trauma cases. He wouldn't even have put it past Lionel Luthor being behind it, that bastard's own security having been at the farm repeatedly trying to get information out of them about Lex's kidnapping. And wouldn't Lionel Luthor just love having Clark somewhere beyond the protection of his parents, to poke and prod at will.

The social services rep left, promising court proceedings, and they'd sat there afterwards, white faced and desperately trying to figure a way out, short of pulling up roots and running. They wouldn't see Clark in a 'facility' of any sort. The first time they tried to put a needle in him, they'd discover just what a special boy they had in their grasps.

It was not long after that Martha noticed Clark cocking his head to this side, then that, pupils dilating and shrinking, as if he were hearing things they weren't.

"What's he doing?" She asked and Jonathan shook his head, at a loss.

Then Clark turned, sudden focus in his eyes and stared sharply to the west. His lips moved, and they barely heard the whisper.

"Lex."

And then, fast enough to make their clothing whip, he was just gone.


Dull pain. Decker slamming into him, dragging him down, fingers digging into hipbones, nails scoring skin in his frenzy. Like he was trying to ram his cock up into Lex's throat, or through the thin barrier of intestine and organs and right through his stomach. Blood trickled, wet warm rivulets down Lex's wrists, skin torn as he dangled, all his weight on his wrists, legs gone useless and numb under him, genitals numb - - thankfully numb- - after Decker had been at them repeatedly with the cattle prod.

"Mine," Decker hissed in his ear. "You belong to me. You call my name - - or I rip out your tongue and you don't say anything at all."

A hand clawed its way to his balls, grasped hold, twisting, ripping and it pierced the numb with excruciating clarity. Lex threw back his head, strangled sounds torn out of him that only sounded half human.

"Or I tear out these. These are no use to me. Your tongue, I enjoy."

No. No. No. He was panting, everything black around the edges, pain red at the center.

"Yeah," Decker said, that tone he had when he was holding conversations with himself. Hard, rough thrust, nails breaking the skin of his scrotum. "Heat up a welding rod, stick it in, burn 'em up from the inside." He laughed, mad wet sound against Lex's ear. "Make you eat 'em after. I promised you that, didn't I?"

God. God. Better he stuck it through his temple, a field lobotomy would benefit him more in the long run, if he wouldn't end it outright.

Something shook the rafters, dust falling from ancient beams. Not Lex's weak struggles, surely. Decker froze, like an animal alerted to sudden danger that Lex had no sense of whatsoever through the overwhelming haze of pain and exhaustion and fear.

The hand moved from his balls, to his mouth, smothering the harsh rasp of his breath.

"Quiet," Decker, hissed, soft against his ear, but the word was barely out when metal screeched and the door at the top of the stairs exploded inward, propelled by such massive impact that it took out part of the ceiling and tore a swath through the wooden stairs, before tumbling end over end to lodge into the cement wall opposite.

Decker swore, jerking out, starting to sprint towards those metal cabinets and all their hidden terrors. Got two steps before something blurred in Lex's swimming vision, like the after image from slow shutter speed photography, and Decker was flying. Smashing into a wall with the sickening crack of bone, sliding down, twisted and limp, beyond Lex's line of vision. A line of vision abruptly filled with broad chest and an impassive stare. Clark's stare. Clark's perfect face, whole and devoid of the gaping holes that plagued Lex's nightmares. A hallucination surely, his mind finally separating with reality. It had been bound to happen, sooner or later.

He hung from the chains, body swaying minutely, feet finding no traction on the floor. Not even trying. It was a trick. A cruel trick of the mind.

"You can't be - - real." The stare made it more surreal. Blank green eyes looking right through him. Expressionless - - void of everything that a Clark dream should have had.

Clark reached up, not a stretch for him, fingers of one hand simply twisting a link of chain above Lex's hands and all his support disappeared. His knees buckled. The only thing that kept him from hitting the floor was Clark's arm around his waist. The solid feel of Clark's body when he got pulled in. The smell of him.

Go with it. Just go with it, he told himself. If it's a hallucination, it's a good one. He'd stay in it forever if he could.

The theory was reinforced as equilibrium upended and senses blurred, everything melting, sight, sound, breath interrupted.

Then the delusion turned bizarre, and plebian. Rooster print wallpaper, ceramic pigs on the wall, the flash of refrigerator, stove, sink as he was swung about, voices raised in alarm, the thud of feet. A weird angle view of what had to be Jonathan Kent, saying Clark's name, words bleeding as Lex grayed.

Came back with Martha Kent's voice in his ear, aware of her presence, of her hands on Clark's arm, knuckles brushing Lex's skin, talking, soothing firm voice.

"Clark. Clark, you need to put him down. We can't help him unless you put him down. Lex, can you hear me?"

Lex blinked at her, trying to fit her into the hallucination theory. Trying to fit her husband, who hovered behind her, mouth tight, lines of anger/tension/worry lining his forehead. The blurred lines sharpened, disorientation shifting into the tentative suspicion that this was real, that his senses weren't collaborating to deceive him. That he was actually in the Kent farmhouse, that he was clutched tight in Clark's arms - - a live Clark - - a warm Clark - - with Clark's parents worriedly trying to get him to move out of the doorway between kitchen and living room. Naked. Bleeding. Cuffed. Collared. The world started reeling again, his breath clogging up in his lungs, his stomach clenching in a sudden, different sort of panic.

"Clark," Martha was urging, tugging on Clark's arm and finally Clark relented, letting her lead him to the couch, and releasing his hold on Lex. Not particularly gracefully. Just a loosening of his arms and Lex tumbled couchward, naked - - naked - - collared - - with Martha Kent crowding in past Clark, and barking at her husband to get a blanket.

Jonathan loomed over the back of the couch, the last person Lex wanted to be caught naked in front of - - no, not the last person, there were worse people - - but the one who'd mortified him the most the last time he'd caught him. With Clark. With Clark, who was alive. Whole.

"How? Clark - - how?" His voice was raw. He wasn't even sure he'd actually asked it.

She tucked the throw Jonathan had brought around him, not answering and he tried to lift hands to help. The cuffs were still clipped together, thick, hateful leather, damp around the edges with blood. There was horror on her face as she took that in. Lex felt it growing in him. Shame. Humiliation. Helplessness.

"Get them off. Get them - -" He wrenched at them, feeling the sting in the abrasions under the leather. Not caring.

"Lex - -Lex, we will." She was on her knees, Clark standing behind her statue still, not even looking down at him, just staring with blind focus out the window across the room. Her hand on his face was soft, the softest thing he'd felt in forever. Jonathan reached over, catching Lex's forearm, drawing his hands up, big fingers trying to work the cuffs loose before he discovered the padlocks. He flinched, everything contracting at the touch of the man's hands - - thoughts closing in on themselves, blind panic.

"I'll get the bolt cutters." Jonathan turned on his heel, practically running for the back door. And when his hands were gone, Lex could breathe again. Martha's weren't so bad.

"Lex are you hurt? Are you hurt?" Martha was asking him and it was hilarious. So utterly ridiculous a question that he laughed. But it sounded like a sob.

He hurt everywhere. He didn't think he'd ever not hurt again. He couldn't gather his thoughts into anything resembling cohesion.

"No. No," his lips formed the words. Automatic. Hide the weakness, even if it marked his body like a roadmap.

"Clark healed?" He stared past her at Clark. She followed his gaze, then looked back down at him, green eyes soft and concerned.

"Clark healed. Clark will be okay."

But not yet. Not okay yet. His fault.

"I'm so sorry." He felt more pieces of him break off, staring at Clark's blank stare.

"Lex." She caught his face between her hands. "It's not your fault. You didn't do this."

He didn't believe her. He heard the thudding of a man's boots. Decker flashed through his mind. Decker having tracked him down. Decker who'd destroy whatever safety he might find to cling to. Decker who didn't make threats he didn't carry out.

The world greyed out and he missed the removal of the cuffs on his wrists. Came back to Jonathan Kent kneeling, using a set of bolt cutters to snap off the padlock on one of the ankle cuffs. Martha was gingerly holding up his arm, looking appalled at the rings of raw, red skin around his wrists.

"Martha, get on the phone to the sheriff," Jonathan was saying. "Make sure they send an ambulance."

"No!" Lex reached for her, grasping her sleeve as she made to rise, stark panic/shame/fear surging up his throat. "God - -please - -no!"

He couldn't face them, yet. The questions, the inevitable press, the impersonal examination as they recorded evidence of the crime. His father. His fucking, conniving, betraying bastard of a father. He wasn't ready to deal with him either.

"Please, just give me a little time to get my head straight - - to come up with a story that doesn't involve Clark. Doesn't involve you."

Even with head spinning and thoughts a chaotic mess of confusion, he could come up with a trigger for these people. Clark. It was all about Clark and hiding Clark's secrets.

They stared at each other, torn. Doubting his sanity and maybe perfectly within their rights to do so. He doubted it himself.

Jonathan Kent rose, put a hand on his shoulder and Lex flinched, jerking away from the contact.

"It's alright. It's alright, Lex," Martha promised, gently laying hands on him, drawing him forward, to let her husband get at the padlock on the collar. Her hair smelled of cheap shampoo and fresh baked bread. Comforting. Quintessential mother smell. He couldn't recall the scent of his own.

He thought he stank of blood and sweat and semen. Decker's acrid semen. Decker's sweat upon his skin. It clashed with her scent and he cringed, bone deep, until the snip of the bolt cutters broke the lock, and Jonathan unbuckled the collar.

It might have been made of lead for the weight that lifted when it slipped away. His head floated with it, dizzy relief.

"You need medical attention, Lex." Martha had her hand on the back of his neck where the collar had been. Calm voice laced with a strength he felt distinctly lacking. Gentle fingers, soft touch. He envied Clark her.

"An hour. Just give me an hour to rest - -"

He pressed his forehead to her shoulder, dizziness spreading, the whole of the world starting to dip and sway as if they were all adrift. For just a little while, he might sleep here unmolested. For all he knew, Decker was dead, killed by Clark's toss across the room. And if he wasn't, the bastard wasn't omnipotent, it would take time to track Lex down. Even with Jonathan Kent looming over, frowning, not wanting him here surely, after the trouble he'd brought them - - this was a safe haven.

Clark was here.


Martha looked up at him, stricken, Lex just gone limp against her. His neck where the collar had been had faint traces of abrasion. Not as bad as his wrists. Jonathan lifted the collar, stiff, thick leather with a plate on the front with a hand etched 'Lex'. Like he was a damned dog. What kind of sick bastard would treat a man so?

He tossed the thing down, not liking the feel of it in his hands, not liking the things those cuffs and that collar he'd cut off of Lex suggested. Hard to deny though, with Clark showing up no more than a few minutes after he'd taken off, with a naked man in his arms. A damned battered, bruised, hollow-eyed naked man.

Three weeks. Near three weeks since Clark had been shot and Lex had gone missing. Three weeks for whoever had taken him to practice perversions Jonathan didn't even want to think about. A Goddamned dog collar on a man. And manacles on his wrists long enough that there was a hard ridge of healing scar tissue under newly abraded skin. And he'd caught glimpses of other things too. Other marks on too pale skin.

Lex Luthor was damned near the top of his list of people he'd rather never set foot on his property again, but he'd never wished this on him.

"We should get him upstairs," Martha said, thinking ahead. If Chloe came by, or God forbid the social services man, or Ethan or the damned feds, the last thing they needed to explain was Lex Luthor unconscious on their couch and the reasons they hadn't seen fit to alert the authorities. And Lex had been right on that account, they didn't need people asking how he'd gotten here until they had a story they could all stick by.

He'd never thought the day would come that he'd be collaborating with Lex on how to cover up Clark's secret.

Maneuvering Clark upstairs when he was dead weight had been a whole world of difficult. It had taken him and Martha both to wrestle a hundred and ninety pounds of six foot four teenager up the stairs and into his room. Clark had twenty-five pounds on Lex on a good day and today wasn't a good day. Hardest part was getting Clark to move so he could get to Lex to get him up.

Martha pulled and scolded with her best stern mom voice, and finally got Clark to step back enough that Jonathan could get in. Lex groaned when he got him up, flinched, and came half awake.

"It's all right, Lex. It's all right," Martha promised, coming up and getting under his other arm.

"I've got him, Martha," Jonathan insisted, embarrassed on behalf of himself and Lex as the throw they'd wrapped around him slipped. It just wasn't right for a man's wife to be dealing with a naked man that wasn't damned close immediate family. Lex didn't seem to be in much state to care.

"Nonsense. You'll throw your back again. Put him in Clark's room."

He clenched his jaw and managed the stairs, tricky with the three of them and Lex not helping much to support his own weight. Into Clark's room, which honestly hadn't seen much in the way of sleep from Clark since he'd woken up, but still, any incarnation of Lex in Clark's bed sat wrong with Jonathan.

She pulled back the quilt and the sheets and he eased Lex down, tried to snatch the covers and shield her view, but she gave him a look tinged with annoyance and ordered. "Go get the first aid kit and stop acting like I've never seen a man's body before. Twenty-three years of marriage and I think I know the essentials."

He gave her a look, mortally offended. She shooed him out. He stomped downstairs, after that med kit under the sink, when he got back with it, she'd pulled the sheet up on her own, and had basin from the bathroom and a rag, and was blotting the dried blood from around Lex's wrists.

Lex was out again. Not much more color than the white pillowcase and sheets he rested upon if you didn't count the multi hued bruises. A lot of them in varying states of fading or blossoming on the exposed skin of his upper body. Looked like maybe a belt had been used by the width of some of the marks. Other marks too, that he didn't want to dwell on.

He'd never thought of Lex as particularly young before, and that was Lex's doing more than anything, the way he dressed and the way he tried to assert himself, tried to play the big man to all the country hicks he found himself among - - but he looked damn near young as Clark now. Fragile and thin, with purple ringing his eyes and skin so translucent that you could practically see the delicate web work of veins under it. Vulnerable, Jonathan thought, as he stood over Martha's shoulder and watched her wrap a wrist with clean white bandages. Just damned vulnerable and that wasn't an image he'd held with Lex before.

"We should call Lionel," Martha said softly. "He deserves to know Lex is all right."

Jonathan tightened his mouth, not so sure Lionel Luthor deserved anything of them. God knew what he did or didn't deserve from his son.

"You think he'll respect Lex's wishes and not have the authorities over here first thing?"

"Are you thinking of Lex's wishes or of Clark's secret?" She laid Lex's hand across his chest, beside the other she'd already wrapped.

He shrugged, knowing she knew damn well where his priorities lay.

"It's getting late - - Let's just ride this out till he wakes up and we can figure out what to do. We don't even know where it was Clark found him, or where the bastard is that had him."

"You don't think he'll come here after him - -?" Martha drew breath, sudden fear in her eyes.

Jonathan felt it himself. He swallowed. "I don't know. We don't know if the son of a bitch is still alive. We don't know what Clark - - might have done."

He didn't want to think of his son capable of killing a man, but Clark wasn't hitting on all cylinders right now. Whatever Clark had done to get Lex away from the man who'd done those things to him that Jonathan didn't want to dwell on, had been done with sheer animal instinct. And with Clark's strength - - well, Clark couldn't be faulted to taking out a predator like the one they were dealing with.

But still, he planned to keep the shotgun loaded and by his side until they figured it out, one way or another.


Lex drifted out of sleep, slow luxurious process. Warmth, comfort, the smell of fabric softener and Clark filling his senses. Dream like. Almost he thought it was; one of those terrible, wistful dreams that would shatter the moment he opened his eyes to harsh reality. It wasn't until he moved and the full body ache hit him, at odds with soft sheets and comforting smell, that he realized it was real.

For a few moments he lay there, everything swaying, sickeningly adrift, disorientation hitting him so hard that his vision blurred. The room was unfamiliar. Posters on the wall, alcove windows with country print curtains, worn dresser and desk with a stack of what might have been school books stacked at the end. A book bag on a hook over a closet door.

Clark's room. Clark's smell on the pillow. Flashes of Clark appearing like a nightmare or a dream in front of him. He only vaguely recalled details from the rest. Faint recollections of a woman's voice, a woman's soft touch. Martha Kent.

The Kent farm. Clark had brought him home.

Clark had taken him from that place - - that place.

He jerked up, black panic crowding in around the edges, things swarming his head that he couldn't stop or control. His body ached, his shoulders did, everything below the waist throbbed with dull pain. He clutched the sheets, stared at white banding his wrists. White eaten through with tiny spots of dried red. He lifted a hand to his throat, but the collar was gone.

Decker was gone. Please God - - and Lex bent double and breathed. Just breathed and tried to get a grip on the anxiety that wanted to eat him up from the inside out. He'd hit the wall, Lex thought he remembered Clark flinging Decker into a wall. Clark appearing in front of him, materializing like a ghost or an alien with powers beyond human ken, and him fresh from a rage induced bout of torture and rape. Shame. Shame. Huge and ponderous.

He didn't remember much after. Save the niggling awareness that he'd called Clark and Clark had come. Clark had come. He half recalled a million years ago, Clark telling him he loved him - - earnest boy, earnest eyes - - there for him. Half destroyed for him.

He had to pee. Badly. He pushed sheets aside and found he was dressed. A pair of overlarge pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. He had no more memory of donning those than he did of getting his wrists bandaged.

His legs almost buckled when he put weight on them. Not so much the residual aches as simple hunger induced weakness, he suspected. There was a bathroom at the end of the hall. He leaned a hand on the wall over the toilet and winced, urine pink tinged and stinging like acid on the way out.

He shut his eyes, shuddering, flashback image of Decker close behind him, callused hand circling him, not even allowing him the decency of urinating on his own. He clenched his teeth, fighting back a weird empty sort of nausea. There was nothing even close to food on his stomach to come up.

He paused at the mirror, almost didn't recognize himself. He looked like some death camp survivor. Haunted and gaunt. So close to broken there was hardly a distinction. The faint red bruising around his neck made his skin crawl. He lifted fingers to it, tracking the edges where the collar had been. He could almost smell the leather. Almost smell the stink of unwanted sex.

The mirror reflected the claw footed bathtub with its drawn shower curtain behind him. The sudden need to douse himself in hot water was overwhelming. He pulled off the shirt with an effort. His shoulders were stiff, his side protested the raising of his arms. Shucked off the drawstring pants and almost tripped over them in his haste.

The water took a while to heat, but that was okay, he'd gotten used to cold showers - - cold water pumped inside him - -

God. God. He pressed his palms to the wall under the nozzle, quaking, vision black around the edges. The water was warm by the time he recovered enough to fumble for soap and a cloth folded over the rack hanging from the shower faucet. He scrubbed until his skin felt pink and raw, kept at it, until the water ran Luke warm and then cold again. Stood there blindly under the spray until a gentle rapping on the door finally snared his attention.

"Lex? Are you okay?"

He didn't know how long he'd stood there, but his fingers were wrinkly and waterlogged, and the fog on the mirror had had the time to dissapate.

He cut the water, took a breath and assured her he hadn't fallen and cracked his head open. Or slit his wrists and bled out.

He stepped out of the tub, slow moving, like an old man, or a young one only just beginning to appreciate the scope of all his aches. Took his time drying off, and redressing. He wasn't sure what to expect of her. Of her husband. They had reason enough to resent his presence.

But there was nothing but concern on her face when he opened the bathroom door. She had a tray in her hands with a mug of something sending up curls of steam in her hand, a plate and a glass of what might have been apple juice. He luck wasn't good enough for it to be scotch.

He stared at her, feeling as if he'd been caught at something and not knowing what or why.

"I brought you something to eat. I would have woken you earlier, but I think you needed sleep more than food."

He was lost for words and he was never lost for words. He blinked at her, stalled, until she said his name firmly. "Lex. Come sit down and eat something."

She moved into Clark's room and after a frozen second he moved to follow her. She'd sat the tray down on the desk. There was buttered toast on the plate along side the mug of soup. It smelled like heaven. He thought he might cry.

"How long," he asked instead. "Was I - -gone?"

"Nineteen days."

He shut his eyes, trying to reconcile that in his head with the eternity he thought had passed. Nineteen days wasn't so bad. He'd thought it months.

She pulled out the chair, and he sat down in it, legs practically giving out under him.

"Clark brought me here?"

"Yes."

"How did he find me?"

She opened her mouth, seeming perplexed. "We don't know. We think maybe he heard something - -"

Lex swallowed, staring at her, but not registering her features, remembering hanging in that basement half out of his mind and calling Clark's name. And Clark had heard.

"Eat, Lex." Martha reminded him what his stomach was already begging.

He picked up the mug, was shaking too badly to hold it one handed, so cradled it between both palms. Chicken soup, with soft, wide noodles and little diced vegetables that melted in the mouth. The finest chefs in the world had nothing on Martha Kent.

"How long have I been here?"

"Sixteen hours." She said, sitting on the end of Clark's bed. "You've been asleep for sixteen hours. We didn't call the authorities, Lex, But I think we need to. Your father at least ought to know you're alive - -"

They hadn't called - -? Ah, he did recall something along those lines. Him pleading with them not to.

"Let him wonder," he said bitterly.

He consumed the toast, drank the water and sat there, staring at Clark's books. Remembering Clark's blank stare. Wanting Clark here now and wondering why he wasn't.

"Clark? What's wrong with Clark?"

He saw the change in her face, the little crumple of exhaustion and worry that she couldn't hide and he felt himself crumple a little along with her. He almost didn't want to hear. He didn't have the strength to deal with one more blow.

"He - - Clark hasn't been himself since you were - - since we found him. He's healed - - physically - - but, mentally - - he's - - it's like he's just not there. He'll get better though. I know he'll get better."

He stared at her, aghast, remembering those holes in Clark's head so vividly it was as if the blood were staining his hands this very moment.

"God," he whispered. There was nothing in him capable of optimism. It had been wrenched, torn and shocked out of him at the hands of a madman.

He gripped the edge of the desk, trying to wrap his mind around it. Around everything. Nineteen days. And Decker might still be out there. He wanted to crawl into a hole, never face his father, never face the probing questions of the authorities, the worse questions the press would throw at him, but there was no avoiding it. He still needed that story.

He could lie and claim there had been no kidnapping, no three weeks of hell that the press would stretch their imaginations speculating over. Say he'd been on a binge, say anything to avoid the jackals. He'd never cared so much when he'd been younger - - never had face to protect. A business that had probably suffered since his disappearance to maintain. Never had people that mattered to shield.

Priorities warred. Emotions he'd always been so damned good at hiding, surging with tsunami force, trying to cripple him. Fear/shame/guilt/the need to protect what was important to him. The only thing that was important to him.

He didn't give a fuck about the business, but Clark - - to keep Clark from getting dragged into the sordid affair this was sure to devolve into, he'd endure what he had to endure. He'd survived embarrassing press before.

But not in Clark's overlarge clothing. Not anywhere near this farm. He needed distance and he needed his own things to shore him up. He wouldn't face the authorities in shambles. And Lionel could rot in hell for all Lex cared, but he had a sway with the powers that be, and a mind for outmaneuvering tricky situations. He might be an asset, might have enough buried remnants of guilt for his past deeds that he could be persuaded to help a son in desperate need of a calm head and Machiavellian mind.

He looked back up at Martha, who was staring at him with wide, worried eyes.

"I need to go home."

He pushed himself up, legs shaky, a particular ache in his back that outshined the other various pains. Felt almost like a broken rib, and he thought Decker might have hit him high on the side with a fist wrapped in a leather belt after he'd spurred that last rage. Decker's rages had been more frequent during those last indecipherable periods between sleep. Whatever madness was eating at his brain taking firmer hold. He'd whispered promises to Lex of years of captivity, but Lex had the feeling he'd have snapped and killed him long before those dire threats could have been carried out.

"We'll take you home. Do you want to call anyone? The police? Your father to let him know?"

He shook his head. He didn't. He needed just a little more time to gather his calm. He worked his way down the stairs gingerly. The soup hadn't been enough. His stomach rumbled at the teaser, but if he stopped now, sat down and just let himself bask in the comfort of this time worn house, he might not be able to regather momentum anytime soon.

He froze, Martha on his heels, as Jonathan came through the kitchen door - - for a brief moment, having visions of Decker again. He shook it off. Forced himself to straighten when all he wanted to do was take a step backwards. There was a tremulous little flutter in his gut that he couldn't force down, at the man's glower and the heavy impact of his boots as he strode across the kitchen floor. Lex remembered very well this man's threats against him should he impose on his family again, this man's big hands tangled in his shirt when he'd come with the very distressing news of the situation Lex had brought down on their heads.

Funny that he hadn't particularly cared at the time, hadn't felt any particular fear - - but now. It was like anxiety had taken up residence and refused to vacate.

Jonathan looked over his shoulder, to Martha at his back, tightened his jaw. "You had your time, Lex. Have you come up with a way to keep us out of this?"

"Jonathan," Martha said, reprimand in her voice.

"Deflect and deny," Lex said simply. "You're good at that. You never saw me. I wasn't here." He forced himself to walk right up to Jonathan. "The sooner I'm out of here, the sooner we can put it to practice."

Jonathan muttered something under his breath, and Martha said something back, soft and sharp, but Lex wasn't paying attention, having caught sight of Clark through the kitchen window, standing in the middle of the dirt drive between house and barns. He moved around Kent, to the back door, not caring what the fuck the man thought. Clark was there and he needed to see how much of what he thought he remembered and what Martha had said was true.

The screen door swung closed behind him, and he walked out into the yard, barefoot. The sun was summer bright, high in the sky, so much warmer than flickering fluorescents. The yard smelled of cow dung and hay and the scent of whatever was in bloom in Martha Kent's garden. It filled his lungs, made his chest flutter from sheer appreciation. Clark did, standing there, white t-shirt, worn jeans, slope of neck, curve of biceps, strain of cotton across broad young shoulders.

He walked up next to him and Clark made no motion of acknowledgement. Simply stood, face turned to the sun, thick black lashes still on his cheeks. The only movement at all was the steady rise and fall of his chest.

Lex swallowed, aware peripherally of Jonathan and Martha on the porch and said very quietly for Clark and Clark alone. "I thought you were dead. I thought - -"

He broke off, all the things he'd thought, all the nightmares, all those Clark-dreams he'd tried to use as escapes damming up inside him. He pressed his forehead to Clark's shoulder and shuddered.

"You heard me when I called you. You need to hear me now."

The earth was liquid under his feet, the only solid ground Clark's shoulder, hard and unyielding. Like Clark's silence.

Clark was broken. Because of him. And maybe later he'd have it in him to attack the problem of fixing him head on - -if fixing were possible - - bits of brain and skull flashed across his mind's eye, relentless reminder of the scope of the damage - - but not now. He could barely think about it now, when there were so many pieces of himself strewn far and wide. Clark made it worse. Clark made him want to sink down and cry and he couldn't afford the weakness.

"Sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Martha will drive you to the mansion," Jonathan Kent laid a hand on his shoulder and Lex started, flinching back, heart thudding with fight or flight tempo until his vision broadened enough that he could recognize the man for who he was.

Jonathan looked a little surprised at his reaction, opened his mouth, shut it, muscle in his jaw ticking. Lex imagined he wanted him gone, imagined they were reluctant to leave Clark alone in his present state. Thank God they'd elected for Martha to take him, because he wasn't sure he could have dealt being trapped in the cab of a pickup truck with Jonathan. He suspected Jonathan had similar thoughts about him. God knew what else was going through the man's mind, with the way he not so subtly interposed himself between Lex and his motionless son.

Martha was coming down the porch steps, keys in hand, asking if he were ready.

He wasn't, but after a last look at Clark, he headed towards the truck anyway. Sun heated vinyl was uncomfortably hot through the thin material of his borrowed drawstring pants. There were a few cracks in the dash from age and heat. A gun rack with a shotgun on the rear window. The truck started up without a hitch though, when Martha turned the ignition. He didn't look in the rearview at Clark as she pulled down the drive.

"Tell me what's been happening? Who's been looking for me?"

"Everyone," Martha said. "State and local authorities. The FBI. Your father has his own private investigators searching as well, I believe."

So Lionel had pulled out all the stops. Gratifying, notion, if it hadn't been too little, too late. Lex tightened his fingers on the arm rest.

"We told them Clark was in shock. That he wasn't talking because of the trauma. They've been pressuring us to have him hospitalized. Hoping they could break through and get information out of him. They've set Child protective services on us and are trying to get a court order to have him removed for his own protection."

"God," He shut his eyes, a brief wash of vertigo assaulting him. He took a deep breath and chased it off. The last thing any of them needed was Clark in the hands of well-meaning medical professionals.

"Have you contacted a lawyer?"

"No," she said, soft ashamed voice. "We should have, but Jonathan doesn't hold much faith in - - he's been balking. Hoping Clark will snap out of it and it'll be a mute point."

"Your husband's a fool." Lex said bluntly. "I'll have my people take care of it."

"Lex - -"

He lifted a hand, waving off either refusal or thanks.

She drove for a while longer, hands tight on the wheel, then. "I know - - I know you've been through something horrible. If you need to talk - - I'm a good listener, Lex."

He almost laughed. Pinched the bridge of his nose instead, because the thought of having a heart to heart with Clark's mom about the last three weeks of torture and rape, was hysterically, morbidly hilarious.

"You need to talk with someone," she said softly, picking up maybe that he'd sooner slit his wrists than admit those things to her. "And the sooner the better. The longer you bottle these things up, the longer it'll take to heal."

He did laugh then. "An how many semesters of psychology did it take you to reach that conclusion?"

She gave him a look from the corner of her eye. A purse of naturally dark lips. "Four. But twenty- three years of marriage, and raising a child that finds trouble like he's magnetic north has given me a little insight. Nobody is ever so strong that they don't need a little help now and then. If you want to be able to help Clark, you have to help yourself first."

He swallowed at that shrewd observation, stared out at the summer corn flashing by the passenger side window. Leaned his head against the glass and thought as shrinks went, Martha Kent might be better qualified than any of cold-eyed bastards he'd ever been forced into seeing. There'd been a few after the meteor shower, when he'd been deep in his shame-coated shell, that his father had forced on him. None of them had been so much concerned for him, as they had been for kissing ass to Lionel Luthor.

"I won't hurt him," he said softly, breath fogging the glass. "I swear I'll never hurt him."

She sighed, reached out a hand and very gently brushed his forearm. He almost didn't flinch from the touch. "I know, Lex. I know you won't."

The walls along the perimeter of the estate flashed by. She pulled in to the gates, and he drew breath, gathering reserves.

The gates were open and the gate guard absent from the little ivy-covered gatehouse.

"Maybe he was called up the house," Martha suggested. It was possible. There was probably a great deal of traffic to and from the mansion related to the search efforts. But Lex felt a shiver of unease, regardless.

There were a few cars out front when they drove up. One he recognized as his father's assistant's, another domestic sedan with state plates. The tension eased. His nerves were so shot that a stray breeze could make him sweat at this point.

"This is as far as you need to go, Mrs. Kent. If anyone sees you, I'll come up with a story."

"Are you sure - -?" She was concerned. For him. He didn't know quite what to do with it.

Best course of action was to turn his back on her and walk up to the front door. He rather dreaded ringing the bell, but it beat walking around back in the hopes that one of the side doors or the kitchen were unlocked. His hand froze halfway there. The heavy cherry doors were open. One of them gaping about four inches, cool air leaking out from the opening. That shiver of unease came back with a ham handed vengeance.

He turned and she was still there, sitting in the idling truck, waiting for him to get inside. Like an adult waiting to make sure a child in her charge got safely home.

"Is everything okay?" she leaned out her window and asked.

"May I have the gun?"

Her eyes widened. "Lex - -? What - -?"

"Please."

He felt stricken. Pale. He clenched his fists to keep them from shaking. After a breath she cut the ignition and twisted to remove the shotgun from the rack. She opened the door, climbing out with it in her hands.

"Lex what is it?"

"I don't know. The door's open." He took the gun from her, wanting it in his hands. God knew she was probably a better shot with it, his experience with guns beginning and ending with handguns, but he needed it so bad he could taste the acrid flavor of metal on his tongue.

"Get in the truck and leave. Call the sheriff and get him out here."

"No." She shook her head, stubborn.

"It may be nothing. It may just be paranoia at work."

He didn't believe it. The bile at the back of his throat was testament enough of that.

"Then I'm coming in. I didn't feel right dropping you at the curb and running anyway."

God. Stubborn, stubborn woman.

He didn't have the patience to argue with her.

He used the muzzle of the shotgun to push the door open. The entrance way stared back at him, same as it always looked. Persian floor runners, elegant arrangements on 18th century hall tables, gothic mirror, utterly pretentious grandfather clock that had come straight from the halls of some French royal estate.

Silence. But the mansion was always silence. Heavy stone only occasionally groaning under its own weight. The runner felt thick and soft under his feet. It occurred to him that he'd never walked it barefoot before. He walked down it, onto hardwood floors, towards his office.

It was empty. The desk his father had brought it had papers and folders, here and there. The computer was open. The stock tickers rolling relentlessly.

"I'm going to see if Mrs. Chaddick is in the kitchen. She's usually here this time of day, isn't she?" Martha said, heading that way before Lex could stop her.

He went to the wall safe in the bookshelf. Slid aside the camouflaging book spines and keyed in the combination. In amongst his personal documents and papers, lay a gun. A 9mm Gloc, with the clip by its side.

He pulled out the gun, balanced the shotgun in the crook of his arm and slammed the clip into place. He felt marginally better. The feeling didn't last long. When he picked up the phone on his father's desk, there was no dial tone.

He swore softly under his breath. He had an extra cell in his temporary office on the second floor. He headed towards the servant's entrance, not prepared to leave Martha down here alone.

"Mrs. Kent?"

"Lex," her voice drifted up the hall. It sounded strained. He flipped the safety off the Gloc tracked her down. She was standing in the hall not quite to the kitchen, staring down at a streak of red on the floor.

She looked up at him, stricken. "There's no one in the kitchen - - is this blood?"

Of course it was blood. What else could it be.

"We're leaving. Now!" His vision was tunneling, his heart beating frantically at his ribcage. He needed out of the house, because Decker was here. He should have listened to that first bad feeling at the gate and turned tail and fucking run.

He half ran down the hall, lost his stride at a spatter of red on the hall wall. At the perforations in the plaster in the midst of it that could only be bullet holes. There were dark, dried smears on the floor leading to a broom closet directly opposite.

"Oh my God," she cried, seeing what he saw. He backed up a step, and she took one forward. Before he could yell for her to stop, she had the door open, and he was pointing the Gloc at a glassy eyed corpse on the floor. A tangle of limbs stuffed into a too small space. A man in a cheap suit that he'd never seen before.

"Lex, your father. Where's your father?" She was flushed, and terrified but she was thinking more coherently than he was. He could barely hear her over the rushing flood of blood in his ears. All he could focus on was getting out and what would happen if he didn't.

"Mr. Luthor," she cried. "Lionel, are you here?"

If his father were here, Lex doubted he was capable of responding. Not if Decker had been here. Decker had a score to settle, a betrayal to avenge and Lex had been asleep sixteen hours. Sixteen hours for the man to wreck his havoc and make his plans. God. He needed out of this house and its constricting stone walls.

"Martha, we have to go. We can call the authorities from the farm." He wasn't even sure it was safe there. But Clark was there, and another man with a gun and it was the only place he could picture at the moment that he wanted to be. He gave her a push with the hand holding the shotgun. She started moving, then hesitated, as Lex did, when a weak voice called.

"Help. Is someone there? Help."

His father's voice. Coming it sounded like, from the study, which had damn well been empty not more than a few minutes before.

She started that way, foolish woman who didn't know - -who couldn't comprehend the sorts of monsters that could live in a man's head - - the sorts of things those monsters could drive him to do.

Lex knew. All too well.

She got there first. Got through the stained glass doors before he heard her aborted cry, and the thud of what might have been a body.

He skidded to a stop, clutched his pair of guns and pressed his shoulder against the wall, when the ground wanted to fall out from under him.

"Martha?"

"Its cowardly, to send a woman in ahead of you, Lex," a voice rasped at him from inside the study. Decker's voice. "A punishable offense."

Lex rolled his head back, clenching his teeth to hold back the sob that wanted escape.

"Lex? Lex, are you here?" His father's voice, trembly and weak.

He swallowed, gathered his voice and answered, his voice not much more stable than his fathers. "I'm here."

"Come on in, Lex. Make it a family reunion," Decker's voice suggested. "Don't make me have to ask twice. They'll regret it before you do."

He slid the Gloc behind his back, into the waistband of his borrowed pants, adjusted his hold on the shotgun, and pushed himself off the wall.


Walking down that hall to the study door was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do. His balls felt like they wanted to curl up into his body, his stomach wanted to toss up everything she'd fed him.

He stopped in the doorway and took in the room. Martha was on the floor, a darkening bruise on the side of her face, a trickle of blood where whatever Decker had hit her with had broken skin. Probably the gun he had to the back of Lionel's head.

His father was in bad shape, heavy bruising about the face, blood matted in his hair and beard. Quite a bit of it staining his white shirt. His glasses were and his eyes were roving sightlessly. Decker didn't look much better. There was a huge hemotoma like bruise from temple to jawline. His nose was swollen out of shape, badly broken, and one arm had been haphazardly tied to his chest with strips of dirty cloth. The way the man was breathing, harsh and rasping suggested broken ribs. When Clark had thrown him into the wall, there had been no semblance of restraint.

The look in his eyes though, was pure mad determination. The sort of single-minded focus that made Lex wonder if he felt the pain at all.

"Look at you with the gun," Decker grinned at him, well shielded by Lionel's body. "Make you feel safe, boy?"

Lex stared at him, not feeling safe at all, even with Decker battered to hell, and a hidden gun at his back.

"We waited for you to come home, Lex," Decker said. "Waited all night, and you didn't show. Had a good long time to tell your daddy here, all about our time together. Told him how obedient you could be given the right motivation. Told him what a good cocksucker you are. What a tight hole you got. Told him how I can ream you till you bleed and in a day or two, you're back to being snug as a ten year old boy."

"Fuck you," Lex said softly, fingers cramping up on the shotgun he was holding it so tightly.

"That all you got to say?" Decker changed the angle of his gun, pressing the muzzle into the hollow of Lionel's cheek. "Don't you want to say anything to your daddy, after going so long without seeing him?"

"Sure. Thanks for hiring the psychopath, dad."

There was a certain numb calm creeping over him. The details were excruciatingly clear. Martha was moaning softly, lashes quivering. There was blood running down the side of Lionel's jaw, mingling with the beard, trickling down his neck to soak the collar of his shirt. The door to the bookshelf safe was still open. He wondered if Decker had noticed it.

Decker's mouth thinned. "Put the gun down, Lex."

He canted his head. "I don't think so."

"Put the gun down or a I put a bullet in his head."

Lex had heard that one before. Seen the results of compliance. There would be blood either way. Lionel's or his.

"You're assuming you've got as much leverage against me with him, as you did with Clark."

"Lex, Lex," Lionel held out a hand in Lex's general direction. "Be reasonable, son. This isn't a man to toy with."

"You think?"

"Lex," Decker said softly. "Every second you make me wait, I will make you scream for. Put the gun down now!"

The last was delivered in that drill sergeants voice Decker liked to use when he was feeling particularly dominant. It made Lex flinch. Made his muscles clench up and his breath stall. The parts of him that this man had damaged made his fingers itch to obey the command; ingrained survival instinct to avoid pain. There would be humiliation and shame and violation that he wouldn't be able to stop.

But then, those things would come regardless of defiance or submission. Decker couldn't help himself.

"Fuck you," he said it again, softly.

"I guess he don't care after all, huh old man?" Decker purred.

And Lionel was saying, "Don't be hasty. We can talk about this. Whatever you want - - I can arrange."

"Whatever I want, huh?"

Decker stared straight at Lex over Lionel's shoulder. "See? He's willing to sell you out again to save his own ass. Guess I'm doing you a favor, huh, Lex?"

"Don't - -" Lex got that first word out, before the dry pop of the gun was ringing in his ears. The bullet shattered something in a cabinet across the room on its exit trajectory. And Lionel was crumpling, eyes wide and shocked and infinitely blinder than they had been a second before.

He hit the floor face first, blood leaking out onto wood tiles and Lex stared a moment too long, caught in the grip of a profound sort of disbelief. Shock.

"One more chance, Lex. I don't like killing women." Decker had the gun pointed at Martha Kent's head. She was trying to push herself up, dazed eyes fixed on Lionel. Whispering things Lex couldn't hear. Prayers maybe.

If there was a God, he'd never answered any prayer of Lex's.

"You will, anyway," he said softly. It felt as if there were cotton in his head, muffling everything. Maybe it even helped, blocking out the things that wanted to rip him apart.

Decker put the muzzle of the gun against Martha's head. "Last chance. Put the gun down."

Lex took a breath. Took his hand off the trigger and held the shotgun out away from him. Leaned it against the table inside the door. Spread his hands after, to emphasize his compliance.

Decker wet his lips, eyes fixed.

"Kill her and you might has well kill me now, too," he said softly, before Decker's demons could make him squeeze the trigger. "I'll fight you every step of the way, goad you until you snap and kill me anyway, and you know you will, and then you won't have anything. Let her live and whatever you want from me, I give. Total submission."

He saw the temptation. Saw the desire creep like some malignant disease into Decker's mad eyes. It made him sick, knowing he was the focus of it.

The gun swung away from Martha Kent. Lowered at Decker's side.

"Come here, Lex."

He moved, meeting Decker's eyes and not flinching, easing a hand behind his back and curling his fingers around the Gloc. No doubt Decker was a faster shot than him. A better one. And if he went down - - that wouldn't be so bad a thing in comparison to what he'd have to look forward to if he failed. The one thing he had going for him was the absolute certainty that when Decker killed him, he'd want to do it hands on. Not with a bullet from across the room.

He pulled the gun, and Decker saw it. Lex saw the moment, Decker realized what he had, saw that flash of indecision that he'd been counting on, and he pulled the trigger.

He heard the sound of a second pop, felt a dull impact in his arm, on the heels of the one his gun had made, but it didn't stop him from squeezing the trigger again. The impact of the second bullet threw Decker's bad shoulder back. The third one tore through his shirt, red blossoming in its wake. He crumpled backwards, feet from Lionel, and Lex kept walking, treading through the pool of his father's blood, squeezing the trigger, putting another bullet in. And another. Decker stopped jerking by the fourth or fifth - -just lay there, as the bullets tore in. And Lex kept squeezing the trigger, until all it did was click impotently against an empty clip.

There were hands on his wrist, trying to get him to stop, and soft, desperate words blurring in his ears, hardly heard through the echoes of gunfire in his head.

"Lex, he's dead. He's dead." Martha Kent, trying to pry the gun out of his hand. His finger was still spasming on the trigger. He stared down at the gun in his hand quizzically. Forced himself with an effort to loosen his grip and she extracted it from his hand, tossed it away like it was poisonous.

"Lex, you're bleeding."

He stared down at the blood on his feet. His father's blood. But she was holding his arm, and he stared numbly at a bloody score in his bicep. The sting was distant and odd.

He took a step backwards, out of the puddle of cooling blood, his hands starting to quake, teetering on the edge of an abyss. His knees gave out, and he went down, staring at the bodies, breath starting to come harsh and fast. His father's dead eyes, staring at him. His father's blood mingling with a madman's. Lex's running warm and steady down his arm.

"It's okay. It'll all be okay, now." Martha was on her knees next to him, none of those pesky strict personal boundary issues his family had always practiced. She had her arms around him and was crooning in the sort of voice you'd expect to hear used to comfort a panicked child. And Decker was lying there, and it was only his imagination that the chest rose and fell - - only his imagination that dredged up images from the last month so vivid they made him flinch and keep flinching.

"You're okay," she crooned. "You're okay. It's all over now."

He buried his face in her shoulder and shook.

 

 

 

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