Lex Luthor was leaving Smallville.
The words circled in Clark Kent’s mind, scraping deeper into his psyche with every pass. Despondency weighed his steps as he entered the high school. He had no right to feel upset, though, not after the way he’d treated Lex. As if nearly raping him hadn’t been enough, Clark’s cruelty after Lex had taken the chance on kissing him had been horrible. Clark was repulsed by his actions and didn’t blame Lex for wanting to leave.
That didn’t stop an ache from settling in the center of his chest, or unhappiness from slumping his shoulders. He trudged late into his first period History class. He acknowledged Mr. Prince’s reprimand and instruction to stay after, and slouched into his seat.
A faint roll of nausea turned Clark’s stomach as a hand touched his arm. Lana Lang looked at him with concern. A polished piece of green kryptonite hung from her necklace, resting in the hollow of her throat. “Are you okay?” she whispered.
Clark gave her a wan smile. He must look pretty bad if she was talking to him again. He got out a notebook and pen from his backpack, jotted her a note, and angled it so she could read the page.
My parents are in the hospital, Lex is leaving Smallville, and a good friend of mine is maybe mad at me still. Otherwise, I’m great!
Lana’s eyes widened and she turned quickly to a blank page in her notebook. She wrote swiftly and then held up the page for him to see.
What?!!! Are you parents okay? What happened? Why is Lex leaving? Did you do something to him again?
Clark’s lips curled with self-contempt. He answered her on his own page.
My parents are fine. They had a bad reaction to something they were working on in the greenhouse. Lex is leaving because the Kents are the biggest assholes on the planet, which you’ve already discovered.
Lana glanced at Mr. Prince and wrote out a reply.
You’re not an a---! You were freaking out over Lex kissing you. At least you didn’t punch him, like most straight guys would.
Ah, hell, Lana’s boyfriend, Whitney hadn’t told her about Clark’s sexual orientation. Clark had thought for sure Whitney would spill. Apparently, Whitney was one to keep his promises, which didn’t make Clark feel any better at the moment. Doug Collingsworth had told him last night that he would be outed by public opinion whether he verified it or not, because of the morphing rumors behind Lana kicking him out of the Talon. Unless he wanted to use a girl for show, Clark was coming out of the closet.
Yes, I freaked over Lex kissing me, but not because I’m straight.
Lana read the angled page and her gaze jerked up sharply. She stared at him, her lips pursing tighter with every second that passed. Finally, she wrote furiously on her notebook.
You could have told me you were gay! I thought we were friends.
We are friends!
Friends don’t let friends believe they’re straight
when they’re not!
It’s not that simple.
It should be. I
wouldn’t have judged you because you’re gay.
Lex is my friend and he’s gay.
I’m glad you wouldn’t have judged me, but there’s
more to it than fearing homophobia.
The bell rang and students sprang noisily from their desks, saving Clark from answering for the moment. He closed his notebook and stuffed it in his backpack.
“Mr. Kent,” Mr. Prince called a reminder. Lana gave Clark a Look, indicating they definitely weren’t finished. She left the classroom as Clark made his way over to the teacher.
“You’ve been tardy two days in a row,” Mr. Prince said, studying Clark through his glasses. “Do you have a valid reason?”
“My parents are in the hospital in Camdenton,” Clark said. “I was there all last night.”
“Will they be all right?” Mr. Prince asked.
“Yeah. I wouldn’t have come to school otherwise.”
Mr. Prince nodded. “I won’t give you a detention, then. However, next time, if you do not have the proper excuse slip, I won’t be so lenient.”
“Thanks. It won’t happen again.” Clark gave Mr. Prince a polite smile, hitched his backpack higher on his shoulder, and left the room.Lana ambushed him the instant he stepped out the door, but she wasn’t alone. Pete Ross stood next to a wired-looking Chloe Sullivan, quizzing her on math formulas. The noise in the hallway was loud. Voices blended together and metal locker doors clanged shut as students moved through passing period.
“Chloe and Pete both know you’re gay,” Lana accused immediately, glaring up at Clark.
“I only told them on Friday,” Clark said, looking around uncomfortably. “Can we not talk about this now?”
“Fine. But this conversation isn’t over.” Lana flipped her dark hair over her shoulder and flounced down the hall with her nose in the air. Clark saw Whitney waiting for her further up the hall.
“Lana’s going to kick your butt, Clark,” Pete said, pushing off the locker he was leaning against. “How much are front row seats?”
“Ten bucks, plus five extra for the booster chair.”
Pete gave him the finger. “I have your booster chair right here.”
“Guys, we have more important things to talk about than the pissed-off Powder Puff Girl.” Chloe gestured with her hands, one holding a very large Styrofoam coffee cup. “First of all, you’re parents are okay, right?”
“Yeah,” Clark replied, as they started walking down the hall. “The doctor said they should be out of the hospital in a day or two.”
“Chloe told me they were infected by some sort of Flower of Weird,” Pete said. “That’s whacked.”
“That’s Smallville,” Chloe said. “And now it looks like that’s Grandville, too. At least, the Rickman Industries plant, if what Clark says about the meteor rock is true.”
“It’s true,” Clark said. “And I don’t like it. Did you get in?”
Chloe shook her head. “Not yet. Their computer network has a lot of firewalls to breach. Then, there was that whole sleeping thing that interrupted my hack.”
“The CDC implied they were going to pay Rickman Industries a visit, when they took the flower,” Clark said, stopping at near the stairs to the second floor.
“You think they’ll wipe their system?” Pete said.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so,” Clark replied. “If the plant is following proper safety protocols and has the right licenses, the CDC won’t stop any experiments.”
“And even if they didn’t, Rickman could make them believe so with a handshake and a smile,” Chloe said disgustedly. She glanced at her watch and squeaked. “Bell’s about to ring. Clark, we’ll see you at lunch. Come on, Pete.”
“Later!” Pete called over his shoulder as Chloe dragged him down the hall towards their class.
Clark jogged upstairs and entered his English classroom right as the bell sounded. His desk was on the opposite side of the room from Lana’s, but she made it clear that an interrogation would take place before the end of the day. He nodded in acknowledgement to her.
“Open your books to Act four, Scene one,” Mr. Hanson said, as the class settled. “We’ll pick up where we left off yesterday. Keith, if you’ll begin.”
fear, too early: for my mind misgives/Some consequence yet hanging in the
stars/Shall bitterly begin his fearful date/With this night's revels and expire
the term/Of a despised life closed in my breast/By some vile forfeit of untimely
death’,” Keith read. “‘But
He, that hath the steerage of my course,/Direct my sail! On, lusty
Clark gazed out the window along the side of the room, Romeo and Juliet droning in the background. The second hour P.E. class did warm ups in the field. Few clouds skirted across the blue sky. He wondered if Lex had left already.
A commotion by the door drew Clark’s attention back into the room. Principal Kwan was speaking quietly to Mr. Hanson. They both looked in his direction. Fear tickled the back of his neck. Had something happened to his parents?
“Mr. Kent,” Mr. Hanson said. “If you’d gather your books and go with Principal Kwan.”
“Ooooh.” Students laughed and made catcalls at him. Clark hooked his backpack over his shoulder and followed the Principal out into the hall, as Mr. Hanson reined in the class.
“Is it my parents?” Clark asked Principal Kwan immediately. “Do I need to get back to the hospital?”
Principal Kwan appeared slightly confused. “No, this has nothing to do with them. You say they’re in the hospital? Both of them?”
“Yeah. They’re at St. Mary’s in Camdenton,” Clark said, walking beside Principal Kwan towards the stairs. “I was there last night until this morning. That’s why I was late to school, if that’s why—”
“It’ll all be explained when we get to the office,” Principal Kwan interrupted.
Clark fell silent, his brow creased in worry. If it wasn’t his parents, what could it be? Calling people out of class was a rare occurrence, especially by the Principal personally. Crap, he wondered if it was the FBI following up on Clark’s use of his powers against Trent Shivs. He glanced at Principal Kwan out of the corner of his eye, but the Asian man’s face was impassive, giving no hints. Clark had worked out his obfuscation on Sunday night in case the FBI did come to Smallville. He wished he’d had time to go over it with his parents, though.
The stern look Clark received from the secretary in the Main Office did not bode well. Clark followed Principal Kwan past the counter to the small conference room. Clark was escorted inside.
“Have a seat, Mr. Kent,” Principal Kwan directed. “I will return shortly.”
Principal Kwan closed the door behind him, leaving Clark alone. The blinds were closed over the windows, blocking him from seeing outside. He dropped his backpack on the table, but didn’t sit down. He had a very bad feeling churning inside him.
The door opened again and Principal Kwan came into the room, followed by two other people: Sheriff Nancy Adams——and Sam Phelan.
“Mr. Kent,” Phelan said with a smarmy smile. “On behalf of the Metropolis PD in cooperation with the Lowell County Sheriff Department, you are hereby under arrest for aggravated battery against one Desiree Atkins.”Fear and loathing swamped Clark, as Sheriff Adams circled the table, handcuffs at the ready. “Mr. Kent, if you would be so kind as to put your palms flat on the table.”
Clark bit the inside of his cheek and did as told. He glanced at Principal Kwan and saw no sympathy reflected in his face. Sheriff Adams cuffed Clark’s hands behind his back and forced him none-too-gently to walk.
The bell rang, signaling the end of second period, as they left the conference room. “Don’t you think you should wait until the halls clear?” Principal Kwan said, when Sheriff Adams continued to lead Clark towards the office door.
“I think it would be best to remove Mr. Kent from school grounds as soon as possible,” Phelan said, clapping his hand on Principal Kwan’s shoulder. “You want to keep your students safe, don’t you?”
Clark kept his expression blank and met no one’s eyes when they entered the hall. Students crowded the corridors, talking one over another, changing books in the lockers, heading to their third period class. A hush rolled down the hallway like a wave when they caught sight of Clark being led out by the Sheriff.
The stares bore into Clark. Whispers were spoken into friends’ ears, rumors spreading before he walked out the front door of the school. He almost stumbled at the flashbulbs that exploded upon his exit.
Reporters. Cameramen. The local TV21 news crew. They swarmed on the steps, calling out questions and accusations. Icy horror spread through Clark’s veins.
“How do you feel—” “Did you know this wom—” “—break bones—” “What do your parents—”
A second Deputy Sheriff cleared a path to the police car. The reporters kept pressing, becoming louder in demands for an answer. Clark’s mouth stayed shut. Sheriff Adams pushed him into the back seat of the car.
The reporters’ voices became muffled when the door was closed. Metal separated the back seat from the front. Clark’s hands were trapped uncomfortably behind him. He faced forward, holding himself stiffly, as Sheriff Adams and Phelan got into the front seat.
“My apologies, Mr. Kent,” Phelan said through the metal divider. “I don’t know how those vultures would’ve learned of your arrest.”
Clark turned his head, stomach churning at the sight of that slick smile.
The Smallville Juvenile Justice Center stood behind the City Hall and Courthouse. The v-shaped brick building had two on-grounds classrooms, its own courtroom, a cafeteria, investigation and counseling offices, and detention cells. A fence topped with barbed wire circled the yard.
Clark sat in an investigation office, hands cuffed behind his back still. A single table and four chairs were the only furnishings in the green-painted room. A camera watched him from the corner of the room above the door. A mirror set into the wall reflected Clark’s stony expression. Squinting his eyes slightly triggered his x-ray vision and he could see two men in suits watching him from the other side. FBI. He recognized them from when they were last in town, regarding Eric Summers.
Phelan entered the room still wearing a smile that made Clark want to deck him. As he’d waited, Clark’s fear had become a slow-boiling anger that simmered behind his gaze.
“Quite a predicament you’ve created for yourself, Mr. Kent,” Phelan said, dropping a file folder on the table beside Clark. “Tell me: do you get some sort of thrill from beating up people?”
Clark kept his mouth shut. He knew how the system worked, having been part of it when he was fourteen. Without his parents or an attorney present, anything he said couldn’t be used against him in Court. The information would be excluded as evidence legally by motion of the defense attorney. What he said could, however, be used to prompt further investigation, so he needed to be careful.
“You’ve assaulted three boys when you were fourteen, Miss Atkins on Friday, and a—” Phelan flipped open the file folder and ran his finger down the first page. “—Trent Shivs Sunday night.”
“I did not beat up Shivs,” Clark stated, focusing on a spot to the left of the mirror.
“It says here that Mr. Shivs had to be hospitalized due to a broken hand, damaged windpipe, and a concussion as a result of your actions, Mr. Kent.”
“It should also say that I was stopping him from killing a second person on the street that night,” Clark said, keeping his tone level.
“It does,” Phelan said, which surprised Clark, until he figured it was to make him off-balanced. “I’m concerned, however, about the undue force you used in your role as a Boy Scout.”
“He had a knife.”
“And that gives you the right to beat him up?”
“I didn’t beat him up.” Clark clenched his teeth, suppressing the flare of ire.
“How did you subdue him, then?” Phelan said.
Clark saw Phelan glance at the mirror out of the corner of his eye and his temper receded. The questions were for the FBI’s benefit. That made sense, since the Good Samaritan law protected Clark for his actions against Shivs. It was time to use his lie. “I know martial arts for self-defense.”
“Your actions were more than defensive, Mr. Kent.”
“No, they weren’t,” Clark said. “I grabbed Shivs and pinned him against the lamppost, which is when he probably smacked his head. Shivs then tried to knife me and I slammed his hand against the lamppost to make him drop the weapon. That would be how his hand was broken.”
“And choking him?” Phelan said.
“Cutting off the air-supply is the fastest way to subdue your attacker with minimal injury.”
Phelan glanced at the mirror again. Clark forced himself not to use his x-ray vision to see if the FBI bought his story. “You seem to have excuses for what you did on Sunday. It makes me interested to hear what excuses you’ll have for assaulting Miss Desiree Atkins.”
With the shift from Shivs to Pamphlet Breasts, Clark knew he couldn’t say anything more. “Hey, you’re not supposed to be asking me these questions without my parents here. I watch CSI. I know my rights.”
“Very well. If you want to play it that way.” Phelan shut the file folder and leaned down to speak privately in Clark’s ear. “But know that Mr. Rickman doesn’t appreciate it when his employees come to harm.”He straightened, picked up the folder, and smacked Clark on the shoulder with it. “See you in court, Mr. Kent.”
They took away everything but his socks and underwear, gave him a pair of bright orange scrubs and flip-flops, and locked him in a four-by-ten cement detention cell. A cot bolted to the floor, a toilet, and a sink were the only furnishings in the cell. Shelves carved out of the cement wall held a single towel and one change of scrubs.
Clark lay on the cot and stared up at the outside-controlled ceiling light. Last time he’d been detained, he’d been fourteen, scared to death, and sunk deeply in a well of self-loathing because of his alien freakishness. He remembered having to spend two nights in one of the many Metropolis juvenile facilities, waiting for his detention hearing. The detention cells there had been a large hall with rows of bunks, shower stalls, toilets, and bench tables in the center. The juveniles had been packed into the room and completely ignored, even if blood was spilled. He’d stayed glued to his bunk for two days and had been infinitely glad that, due to overcrowding, he’d been given home detention pending his delinquency hearing.
Clark was more resigned to being at the detention center this time. The red kryptonite had made him lose his self-control, but it was still his actions that had caused people to be hurt. Besides, he’d been in his right mind when he’d attacked Kyla Willowbrook and Kyle Tippet. He couldn’t go around acting on his violent impulses. His aggressiveness needed to be curtailed completely or he needed to find a productive outlet for it. Sexual release simply wasn’t cutting it any longer.
Clark wasn’t sure what he could do to channel that aggressiveness, especially if he got locked up, which was a strong possibility with prior batteries on his record. He wasn’t afraid of serving a sentence with the Juvenile Department of Correction or of any other punishment the Judge doled out. He wasn’t afraid of what others would say, either, about his being a delinquent. It was the presence of those reporters back at the school that created knots of fear inside him.He knew it had been a set up. Why would reporters, especially those from Metropolis, care if a seventeen-year-old beat up some woman? His parents were rich, but their company made fertilizer, which was not something urban dwellers cared an iota about. The Clark family was more well-known, but they were quite respected and it was suicide to tell tales about a prominent attorney.
But more than the local reporters had been on the steps at the school, and Clark knew who had gathered them: Phelan, with direction from Rickman.
Clark crossed his arm over his eyes, blocking out the light. He feared it was only a matter of time before his legal history was leaked. It wouldn’t take much for his life to be over. The news couldn’t print what he’d done when he was fourteen, but the Sex Offenders List was public record and his name was on it in bold-faced letters. Once that got out, he might as well pack his jailhouse stripes and knock on the Kansas State Prison door.
He’d find out soon if his fears would be coming true. In the meantime, he’d lie on the cot, fret silently, and wait.
“This is cause number 28C01-0205-JD-089, in the matter of Clark Kent, a child alleged to be a delinquent child. We are here for a detention hearing. Present in court today are Probation Officer William Higgs, Clark Kent, and you are, sir?”
“Anthony Kaminski, Your Honor.” Tony Kaminski smoothed the front of his suit coat as he rose. “Please let the record reflect my entry of appearance on behalf of Clark Kent.”
“So reflected.” The Smallville Juvenile Magistrate Gordon Long wrote on the file in front of him. He sat behind the raised court bench at the front of the courtroom, wearing black Judge’s robes. His white hair and permanent frown showed his longevity with the system. “Are Mr. Kent’s parents present?”
“No, Your Honor,” Tony said. “They are currently hospitalized and not due for release until tomorrow. They are both aware of the detention hearing and requested I be present in their stead.”
“Very good.” Magistrate Long shifted his attention to Clark, seated beside Tony at one of two tables in the small courtroom. Despite being dressed in the bright orange facility scrubs with both his hands and ankles cuffed, Clark sat straight in his chair in respect. He had spent one night in secure detention and already wanted to go home. Acting well-mannered might help in getting him released.
“Mr. Kent, we are here today to determine several things,” Magistrate Long began. “First, we must determine whether there is probable cause to believe that you have committed an act that would be a criminal offense if committed by an adult. Second, we are here to determine whether you are to be held in detention and, if so, what kind of detention: secure, non-secure, or if I should release you to your parents on home detention. Do you have any questions?”
“No, sir,” Clark said.
“Good. Mr. Higgs, probable cause?”
Mr. Higgs, who resembled a linebacker, did not stand as he read the police report. “Your Honor, on or about the fourteenth day of May, 2002, in the City of Metropolis, State of Kansas, Clark Kent did knowingly and intentionally cause physical contact with another person in a rude, insulting, or angry manner whereby great bodily harm, disfigurement, or death could be inflicted, to wit: he threw the victim, Desiree Atkins, into a glass mirrored closet door and grabbed her by the left arm in a way that caused serious bodily injury resulting in the need for acute medical care. All or which is contrary to K.S.A. 21-3414(a)(1)(C), Aggravated Battery, a Severity Level 7, person felony.”
Clark bit the inside of his cheek. He’d really hurt her. He ignored the dark part of him that whispered ‘good’.
“Without commenting on the truth of the allegations, are there any questions?” Magistrate Long asked.
Tony rose again. “No questions, Your Honor. At this time, I’d like to formally enter a denial on my client’s behalf and set this matter for fact-finding as soon as the Court calendar permits.”
“All right.” Magistrate Long opened the calendar on the bench and scanned the entries. “The Deputy Prosecutor will be here all day on June the third. We’ll set the fact-finding hearing to begin at 9:00 a.m. I will issue a general Order for Discovery. Witness lists should be exchanged on or before the twenty-seventh of May. Any preliminary matters that need to be brought before the Court will be heard that day at 1:00 p.m.”The fact-finding would be right during finals, Clark realized, as Tony wrote down the information. He’d get to have whatever tests he’d had postponed that day. At least there was some bonus to the fiasco.
Magistrate Long looked to Mr. Higgs. “Now, recommendations for detention?”
“Your Honor,” Mr. Higgs said, “Probation recommends that the child be detained in secure detention pending fact-finding due to the nature of the allegations. The child has a history of aggravated battery. Probation would also note that the child has injured another juvenile during the prevention of a crime this past Sunday, which resulted in hospitalization. Charges are not being filed against Mr. Kent, but Probation thought the Court should know.
“Further, if the Court deems fit to detain the child in secure detention, the staff of the JJC requests the child be placed under an Order of Separation,” Mr. Higgs said. “Mr. Kent has been previously adjudicated delinquent of three counts of sexual battery against male peers and is a registered Sex Offender. Probation would concur with the request.”
Clark clenched his jaw, the heat of humiliation burning the tips of his ears. Magistrate Long glanced at Clark and then addressed Tony. “Mr. Kaminski?”
“Your Honor, I would request that Clark be released to the custody of his parents on home detention pending the next hearing,” Tony said. “Clark is not a flight risk and, in light of his status as a Sex Offender, keeping him separated from others would be easily attainable if he was at home. Thank you.”
Magistrate Long shuffled papers on the bench. “Mr. Kent, notwithstanding charges not being filed, it appears as though you’ve committed two serious batteries in a span of two days. If I were to release you, how could I be assured you wouldn’t commit a third?”
Clark glanced at Tony, wondering if he was supposed to answer, but Magistrate Long continued. “No, I think it’s best for the safety of the community that I detain you until the fact-finding hearing on the third. I will also enter an Order of Separation for the protection of others and your own protection. Thank you.”
Tony rose and the JJC staff worker appeared at Clark’s elbow. Stunned, Clark stood and let himself be led out of the courtroom. He wasn’t going home. He was going to sit in a cement cell for the next two weeks, kept away from everyone else because of his label as a Sex Offender.
The chains wrapped around his waist and attached to the ankle cuffs clinked with his short steps. He was led into an investigation room, joined by Tony. The JJC worker left them alone.
Seated at the table, Clark saw his pale countenance in the mirror. He’d thought he’d be prepared, but the reality was different. He’d never been locked up for a long period of time. He had two weeks at the detention center until his fact-finding hearing. After that, he could be looking at years of four-by-ten cells or group bunk rooms. Oh, god.
“Sorry, Clark,” Tony said, removing his suit coat. He hung it on the back of a chair, loosened his tie, and sat down at the table. Opening his briefcase on the table, he removed a file folder, legal pad and pen, and then closed the briefcase and set it aside. “I’ll renew the request for release at the fact-finding hearing, pending the decision of the Court.”
“Thanks,” Clark said, his voice barely audible. He looked down at his cuffed hands, resting in his lap. Anywhere he went outside of the secure wing he had to be cuffed and chained, a rule of the JJC. He should get used to it.
“I’m going to show you the police report.” Tony flipped through his file. The papers were clipped at the top, keeping them from falling loose. He found the beginning of the police statement and laid it on the table in front of Clark. “This is what the Prosecutor will base his arguments on and the reason for your arrest.”
Clark shifted on the chair, leaning closer to read. The black and white Metropolis police report had bad punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Apparently, a good grasp of the written language wasn’t necessary to catch criminals. However, the report was not inaccurate. Desiree Atkins’ recount of the events on Friday night was not embellished. She stated she was on the bed with someone when Clark came in and, without warning, threw her into the mirrored doors of the closet. The mirror broke, cutting her. She then stated Clark went over to her, grabbed her by the arm, and jerked her to her feet. Her arm broke at that point. She feared for her life. She escaped when the curtains caught on fire for some unknown reason and Clark released her to put out the flames.
Clark sank back on his chair, resigned. “That’s pretty much what happened.”
“I spoke with your mom about the charges on the drive out here,” Tony said, making a note on his legal pad. “She said you had gotten high on something that night.”
“Not really,” Clark said. From the way he’d acted in the past when Lex was endangered, he bet he would’ve acted the same on Friday towards the Atkins woman with or without the influence of red kryptonite. “I knew what I was doing.”
“Why don’t you tell me what happened from your point of view?” Tony said.
“Where do you want me to start?”
“Start with when you arrived at the hotel room,” Tony said. “Why did you enter that particular room?”
“It’s the one I was sharing with Lex for the night. The AgExpo was last weekend.”
“Lex? As in Lex Luthor?”
“Was he in the room when you arrived?”
Clark smiled wryly. “You can say that. He was the one Atkins was in bed with.”
“Hmm.” Clark watched Tony write. “Were they having sexual relations?”
“Atkins was molesting him,” Clark’s voice darkened. “She’d tied him up and was forcing herself on him.”Tony looked up sharply from his legal pad. “Forcing? You’re sure?”
Clark’s lips curled in a snarl. “Yes.”
“Tell me everything, in complete detail, from the moment you entered the hotel room until after Desiree Atkins left,” Tony said intently, “including anything Lex may have said about what happened regarding her.”
Clark complied, fingers clenching into fists as the memory sparked his rage. He told Tony about Lex being tied up, hearing his protests, the tear tracks, about him confessing afterwards to being scared. Clark told him about how furious he was and if it hadn’t been for the mysterious fire, he would’ve hurt her much more.
Tony scribbled feverishly on his legal pad as Clark spoke. When Clark wound down, he flashed a quick smile. “Clark, you may have just freed yourself.”
Freedom looked a lot like a four-by-ten detention cell. Because of the Order for Separation, Clark spent most of his time locked in the piss-yellow, cement-walled room. He ate by himself in the cafeteria an hour after the others in the secure wing had their meals, showered an hour later, and was allowed outside into the fenced yard for exercise for an hour alone. Otherwise, he was in his cell, doing schoolwork that was brought to him, reading approved materials, or lying on the cot in a depressed funk.
Clark bounced the basketball once, arched his hand, and let the ball fly. It sank into the hoop, nothing but net, and bounced on the ground back towards him standing at the free throw line. The late afternoon sun warmed his bare shoulders, his orange shirt discarded at the side of the ragged blacktop court. He bounced the ball and shot again. His preternatural skill and knowledge of physics enabled him to shoot the entire hour without missing or moving.
Clark didn’t know if anything sucked worse than this, other than the thought of having to spend years trapped in a similar cage. He used to have nightmares about being captured by the government and locked away for experimentation. The hour spent outside everyday was the only thing keeping him sane, and it had just been a week since his arrest and detention.
Tony had been back once and his parents came nightly for visitation, but his only other contact with people was with the JJC workers assigned to supervise him when he was outside of his cell and they did little more than give him orders. It was difficult being so isolated. He was a social person, with his circle of friends and his investigative nosiness. The ramifications of his actions were not settling well.
Clark sank another shot and caught the basketball on the back-bounce. He should count his blessings, he supposed, that the ramifications weren’t worse. So far, according to his folks, the tabloids and the local news had reported solely on the current case, using interviews from Desiree Atkins to paint him as a brute. Being over sixteen, the charges filed against him were public-accessible and could be reported. It was illegal for reporters to access anything that he’d done prior to his sixteenth birthday and Phelan had not, as yet, leaked his legal history. He didn’t know what was holding Phelan back.
Clark heard a faint, high-pitched beep and glanced towards the JJC worker standing near the door. The beeping grew louder in his ears, even as the worker looked at the watch adorning his wrist and pressed a button on the side. The beeps smoothed into a solid sound, like someone was flatlining in a hospital. The sound became louder still and more intense, causing Clark to grimace.
Suddenly, he heard a deafening crack and thunderous noise filled his ears. He dropped the ball and clamped his hands over them. It didn’t block the rush of sound. He felt like he was standing directly beside a stage speaker at a deathmetal concert. The noise pierced painfully through his eardrums and right into his brain. He looked around, wondering what could be making the racket, desperate for it to stop.
The JJC worker was heading for him, but he saw no one and nothing else outside in the yard. The basketball had come to rest at the edge of the blacktop.
Clark clamped his hand tighter over his ears, grounding his teeth against the pain. “Don’t shout.”
“Aggh.” Clark hunched forward as the worker’s voice speared his ears.
“ARE YOU OKAY, KENT?”
“Stop yelling,” Clark bit out between his clenched teeth, his eyes squeezed shut against the pain.
“MY VOICE ISN’T EVEN RAISED. WHAT’S GOING On here? Talk to me, Kent.”
The severe background noise bled away, save for the worker’s leveled voice. The silence that followed was as intense as the noise had been. Clark opened his eyes and straightened cautiously. The sound didn’t return.
“I’ve got a headache,” Clark told the worker, which was the truth. His brain felt like it was full of holes, punctured by the noise.
The worker eyed him suspiciously, but nodded. “It’s time to go in. Do we need to stop at the nurse?”
“Not right now. I think I’ll try to sleep it off.”
The worker nodded and hovered as Clark put on his orange shirt and fetched the ball. They headed for the door. Clark was steady on his feet, his headache receding with each step. He dropped the basketball in the bin inside the door, tucked his hands beneath his armpits in proper hallway procedure, and was escorted through the secure corridor back to his cell.
Once alone, he kicked off his flip-flops and dropped onto the cot, upsetting the books piled on the end. What in the world had that been?
“Do you think it could be a new power?” Martha asked a few hours later, during visitation.
She, Jonathan, and Clark sat at a small, round table, the only furnishings in the counseling room. Clark looked out the glazed window at the evening. The blue-gray walls surrounding them were supposed to be soothing, but he felt somewhat agitated. He wanted to go home.
“To do what? Make my brain feel like Swiss cheese?” Clark said waspishly. He pulled his gaze inside, focusing on his reflection in the window. Requisite bright orange scrubs, but no cuffs as he was still in the secure wing. His hair was a mess from his unsuccessful attempt at a nap. His parents were watching him with concern.
“The library at the cave gave you a list of recorded possible side-effects caused by the sun,” Martha said. “I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll be able to pinpoint what you could be developing.”
“I’m developing a headache from this conversation. Can we just drop it?”
Martha laid her hand on Clark’s arm. “Clark—”
Clark jerked his arm away and glared at her. “Drop it! I don’t want to talk about my stupid freakishness any more.”
“Clark,” Jonathan said sharply. “Apologize to your mother. There’s no reason for you to talk to her in that way.”
Clark lowered his chin and muttered, “Sorry.”
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Martha asked, not sounding upset at all. “Did something happen other than with your ears?”
“It’s not like anything can happen. Every day is the same: sit in the cell, eat, sit in the cell, eat, sit in the cell, go outside, sit in the cell, visit you, sit in the cell, eat, sit in the cell, shower, and then sit in the cell until morning, when it starts all over again.”
“Maybe we can arrange for your friends to visit—”
“No! Are you crazy?” Clark exclaimed. “I don’t want them to see me in here.”
“What about Lex?.”
Clark turned away, nostrils flaring, as a vivid image of Lex bent over the table, overalls around his ankles, invaded his mind. He dug his fingernails into his thighs. “Keep Lex away from me.”
“Sweetheart, Lex is—”
“No, damn it!” Clark exploded, shooting to his feet. The chair screeched across the tile floor. “Lex is going to get fucked until his eyes bleed if he gets anywhere near me. Keep! Him! Away!”
Martha and Jonathan exchanged looks, and then Jonathan said, “Son, have you been masturbating regularly?”
“Well, have you?” Jonathan asked calmly.
Mortification burned away Clark’s irritation. “Oh, my god. I can’t believe you’re asking me that.”
“I’ll take that as a no.” Jonathan shook his head. “No wonder you’re so snippy.”
“Do I need to send more socks, dear?” Martha asked. “Or maybe we can find a way to bring you Stan…”
“Mom!” Clark said in horror.
Martha burst out in a peal of laughter. Jonathan clamped his lips together, shoulders shaking. “Oh, Clark, you should see your face,” Martha giggled.
“I hate you both.” Clark grabbed the chair, pulled it back in front of the table, and plunked down on it. He folded his arms and gave them half-hearted glares.
“Now, Clark, we know you don’t mean that,” Jonathan said. “Besides, we’re somewhat serious. With the stress you’re under, you need to take care of yourself. You know how you get if you don’t.”
“Yeah.” Clark blew out an unhappy huff of air. Without regular orgasms, he got aggressive and short-tempered, an oh-so-joyful consequence of being an alien. “I’m just not comfortable doing it here.”
“I’m sure all the other boys are doing it, too,” Martha said, reaching over to pat his arm. “You just go right on ahead.”
“Can we stop talking about masturbation now? Please?” Clark begged.
“I don’t know, son. We still need to talk to you about Lex,” Jonathan said, tongue in cheek.
Clark buried his heated face in his hands. “You guys are so mean to me.”
“One of the perks of being a parent,” Jonathan said. He adjusted his seat, the joking air dispersing. “Seriously, Clark, we were hoping you might know some way to convince Lex to stay in Smallville.”
“Doubtful,” Clark said, dragging his hands over his hair. “I pretty much told him I didn’t want him around and you guys said the same thing while under the influence of that flower.”
“We’ve tried explaining that there was truth in what we said, but there was more to it,” Martha said. “We really don’t want him working with us. We wanted to give him his own lab at the plant and the freedom to experiment without the constraints that come with working in the greenhouse.”
“Have you tried talking to Pam?” Clark said. “Lex said he was going to discuss things with her before he left.”
“No, we didn’t think of that,” Martha said, glancing at Jonathan. “We’ll give it a try.”
Clark rubbed his fingertip along the faux grain of the tabletop. “I think it’s a good idea that he leaves.”
“We know you don’t mean that, honey,” Martha said gently.
“Yes, I do.” Clark ignored the feeling of a great big hole carved in his chest. “He’s safer somewhere far away from me.”
“What exactly are you afraid of?” Jonathan asked. “You’ve never pushed anyone away so hard.”
“Shouldn’t you be happy your fag son doesn’t want a guy?”
Jonathan winced. Martha clucked her tongue. “Clark—”
“Sorry,” Clark said, looking towards the window. “I didn’t mean it.”
“It’s okay,” Jonathan said. “It’s not like I didn’t deserve it.”They fell silent. Clark watched the bugs beat futilely against the window from the outside, trying to reach the light.
“I don’t have any control around him.” Clark’s soft confession seemed to echo in the quiet room. “It’s like being fourteen again, only my aggressions extend beyond Lex to anyone who might be a threat to him. My self-control disappears completely.”
“But you usually stop before you go to far,” Martha said.
Clark snorted derisively. “Only because Lex stops me.”
“Is it possible you’re simply sexually frustrated?” Jonathan said, rubbing his stubbled jaw thoughtfully. “You’ve admitted that you want him, but are denying yourself. That would drive any man to fits of violent behavior, especially if you cared about the person.”
“So, what you’re saying is that if I sleep with him, I’ll stop pummeling people who look at him cross-eyed?” Clark shook his head. “It won’t work. He’s a virgin, not a player. How can I touch him if I’m scared to death of hurting him?”
“That’s something you need to figure out on your own, Clark,” Jonathan said. “All I know is, you’re hurting yourself and I hate seeing my child in pain.”
“Maybe the library at the caves or one of the Kawatche books can provide a solution,” Martha suggested. “Your race has been here before. I’m sure someone found themselves in a similar ‘forbidden love’ situation.”
“I guess it’s worth a try. If I am ever able to visit the caves again, that is,” Clark said.
“I have confidence you will,” Martha said. “In the meantime, start with the Kawatche books. I’ll stop by Joseph’s house tomorrow and borrow some additional texts for you.”
Clark smiled wanly. “At least, it’ll give me something to do.”
As his mom had promised, Clark received a stack of books from Joseph Willowbrook about the Kawatche caves, which were a cover for the Kryptonian archival library built into the artificial cave walls. He also received news that his parents’ investigator hadn’t found the bald trick he’d had rough sex with at Sodom, which was somewhat of a relief to Clark. If the guy hadn’t been injured enough to go to the doctor, it was doubtful he’d file charges against his unknown assailant.
Clark still felt badly about it, though. The act of sex was something he controlled so carefully and all it took was a sliver of red kryptonite to destroy that control – unless your name was Lex Luthor, then all it took was breathing to knock Clark’s self-discipline out of orbit.
There had to be a reason Lex made him so crazy. Maybe Lex smelled good to his alien nose and he was reacting to the pheromones. He did know Lex was the only one he could identify by scent alone. The Kryptonian archive hadn’t said anything about biological indicators or other odd mating habits, though. Then again, from what he knew, he was the first of his kind to spend more than a few months on Earth. The long-term exposure to the yellow sun could have affected his Kryah, the invisible mutualistic symbiote that lived on his skin, in a weird way.
Or, he could just be blowing smoke out his ass and his father was the one who was right: he was merely sexually frustrated and a good romp in the hay with Lex would put an end to his madness.
In any event, researching more wouldn’t hurt, and it was not like Clark had much to do anyway. He settled onto the cot, the pillow propped against the cell wall, the new books piled by his outstretched legs. Most of the books were thin and hand-bound, written by the prior Kawatche tribal leaders, passing down accounts of Kryptonian visitors to earth through history. They read like stories rather than historical texts, the truth couched in fiction, protecting both the humans and aliens involved. Kryptonians in the ruling caste would visit the stronghold on earth, stay with the Kawatche people, usually cause some sort of mischief with their sun-given powers, and then return home.There were tales of Kryptonians falling in love with humans, but duty won out over emotion and they didn’t stay. Sexual exploits were not detailed, and it took Clark reading through four of the books before he found something relating to his situation. The Kryptonian woman involved had become violent to anyone who came near her host family. She had been the longest visitor Clark had read about, staying for nearly six months before returning to Krypton.
One thing Clark found intriguing was that, with each visitor that came to earth, the question was raised as to if he or she was the prophesied Naman. Most of the ships carried fragments of kryptonite in their wake, creating small meteorite showers. The Kryptonians gained various powers due to the Kryah’s reaction to the yellow sun. It wasn’t until they left that the possibility was stricken.
Clark lifted his eyes from the book he was reading as realization set in. “I didn’t leave,” he said aloud, the pieces clicking into place. The prophecies of Naman said that Naman would be the protector of the world, that he, along with Seget, would balance the world’s good and evil. To do that, Naman would have to stay on earth.
No wonder Joseph and Lex and Kyla Willowbrook, Joseph’s granddaughter, had proclaimed Clark to be Naman. Clark had not only come in a rain of fire, a meteorite shower bigger than any brought by other visitors before, he was also never leaving. Both Joseph and Lex knew that Krypton was gone. Any Kryptonians that came to earth would be refugees who’d been off-planet when it had been destroyed and if they hadn’t shown up in the thirteen years Clark had been on earth, it was doubtful they were impending, which meant Clark was the last of his kind coming to earth. That meant there were no other possibilities for the role of Naman. Clark was it.
Clark laughed to himself, shaking his head at the ludicrousness. A casualty of calamity made him Naman by default.
More things came together in his mind. Since he’d learned about the Kawatche prophecies prior to seeing Cassandra Carver, the future she’d read slotted him as Naman, because that’s what he’d thought of himself at the time. A Seget would exist because he’d subconsciously assigned someone that role.
Joseph would have also assigned someone the role of Seget. Clark wondered who it was, if he or she had been “found” or not. How would Joseph identify the person? And how would this person fit into Clark’s life, since he didn’t believe in destiny?
Clark leaned over and reached under the bed for the stack of books stored beneath it. He located the Kawatche book Joseph had authored and thumbed through the pages until he found the description of Seget. There wasn’t much written. Seget was supposed to be closer than a brother to Naman, as depicted by their sharing one body in the Kawatche pictograph. He would help Naman keep the balance between good and evil. He was identified as the Bringer of Darkness.
Clark pondered the last part. How could someone known as the Bringer of Darkness be a good person? It didn’t make sense. It almost led to the implication that Naman was good and Seget was evil and that they’d balance each other out that way. If Naman were the protector, then Seget would be the destroyer.
But the prophecy didn’t say they would balance one another, it said together they would keep the balance between good and evil. That inferred that it was them, united, against the world’s ills and assisting in the world’s gains.
Clark was a wordsmith, and since prophecies never said exactly what they meant, there had to be more to the label Bringer of Darkness than what was on the surface. Clark retrieved a notebook, pen and collegiate dictionary from where he kept his schoolbooks and began listing all the meanings behind the two words.
Bringer = bring: 1) cause a different state or condition, 2) induce or persuade, 3) go or come after, to take back, 4) accompanied by or to take something or someone with, 5) advance or set forth, 6) cause to happen or occur as a consequence, 7) attract the attention of, 8) be sold for a certain price, 9) of a quality.
Clark’s pen paused over the last definition. Bring did not only mean to carry or cause something, but described someone. He scribbled a sentence under his definitions. Chloe brings a special brand of perkiness wherever she goes.
Excitement of a mystery about to be solved stirred inside him. He flipped quickly to the definition of darkness and jotted the listing on the paper.
Darkness = dark: 1) an unenlightened state, 2) absence of light or illumination, 3) absence of moral or spiritual values, 4) the time of day between sunset and sunrise, 5) closed; not giving a performance, 6) coloring, as in skin, hair, or eyes, 7) causing dejection, 8) a style or expression, 9) lacking knowledge or culture, 10) stemming from evil characteristics or forces, 11) showing a brooding ill humor, 12) secret.
Clark was almost gleeful at his findings. Darkness meant a lot more than evil or the lights being turned off. Seget could be someone who was African American, like Pete, or a brunette, like Lana. Seget could be someone dour, like Clark’s grandmother. Seget could be someone who didn’t interact much with people and that made him socially backwards.
Prone to going barefoot everywhere.
Being too shy to converse with strangers.
Thought of as a ghost.
Why do you think that I’m the Naman of your
The answer to that lies with Lilamelo.
Lilamelo. Little Flame Lost.
The books tumbled from Clark’s lap as he jerked when an unintelligible racket exploded in his ears. He clamped his hands over his ears, pressing hard, trying to block the sound. It was no use. He hunched over as the deafening noise continued, piercing his head with pain.
A new power, he thought. It had to be a new power. It had better be a new power, or he was in deep trouble. If only the sound would stop and let him think.
It stopped.Clark opened his eyes and looked around in the sudden silence. He lowered his hands warily. Either his body had automatically responded to his command, or an external source had been cut off. There was a way to possibly find out. Clark screwed his eyes shut and tried to listen for the thunderous sound again. His head cocked slightly, as if his ear could stretch towards whatever had made the noise…
“Aah!” Clark yelped and covered his ears again. The rush of booming nonsense flooded his hearing. Definitely a new power. Now, if he could shut it off before his brain started to bleed.
It didn’t automatically work this time. Clark tried not to cry and instead visualized the opposite of what he’d done to trigger the painful super-hearing, drawing his ear back from its stretch. The volume decreased and he started to pick up words before the sound faded completely.
Clark dropped his hands with an exasperated sigh, rather than a relieved one. How lovely, another ability that would separate him further from humans. Whoopee.
Moving the books off the cot, he flopped back onto it and crossed his arm over his eyes. All the isolation must’ve bothered the Kryah, since the lifeform was what gave him his powers.
Clark’s brows lifted, tickling the skin of his arm, and he made a sound of thought. Could the Kryah get lonely? Did it have that sort of higher functioning to identify feelings? Clark recalled what the Kryptonian library had said about the Kryah. The Kryah, invisible to all but him, an energy-like species lived on his skin and absorbed his heat and water in exchange for disease protection and life. Kryptonians couldn’t survive without a Kryah, but the Kryah could transfer to any host body to live off of. The Kryah asexually divided once in a lifetime, usually during conception when the male’s Kryah would divide within the female’s womb and wrap around the fertilized egg.
Luckily, Clark was gay as could be and wouldn’t be passing off his Kryah onto an unsuspecting female. He didn’t remember learning anything about sex between males triggering the division. It mostly likely would’ve happened by now if it were going to; Clark’d had sex with a lot of guys.
It didn’t answer the question of the Kryah’s emotional intelligence, though. Clark wouldn’t learn that until he was able to access the caves. Until then, he supposed he could practice the new enhanced hearing trick, maybe focus it like his multi-layered vision, to soothe the Kryah’s loneliness, just in case.
It would also distract him from the realization that Lex was Seget.
Clark learned how to use his newfound hearing ability, his feeling of isolation
and irritability decreased tenfold. He
was able to listen in on people's conversations or to the drone of the
secure-side teacher that worked with the detainees from one to four every day.
He also found that his mother was right: other boys did it, too; and
since he was already labeled a pervert, his guilt was minimal as he jacked off
to the sounds of his cell neighbors doing the same.
Clark sat in the cafeteria alone, lunch on the tray in front of him. With a little effort, he stretched his hearing until he found and focused in on the radio in the kitchen.
“…Loan. The building has been added to the national registry of historical landmarks, joining the remains of the old schoolhouse, the Quatraine house, and the Kawatche caves from the Smallville area. A dedication ceremony will be held on Saturday, June the sixth at 10:00 a.m., in front of the Savings & Loan,” KROW-FM reported. Clark bit into his somewhat soggy grilled cheese sandwich as the mid-day newscast continued.
“Also on Saturday, Smallville High School will hold Commencement for the graduating seniors at noon at the football stadium. The public is welcome, so come on down and congratulate the class of 2002.
“In other news, you might have noticed a multitude of trucks going in and out of the KentCorp plant the past few days. In the wake of the current scandal involving his son, Jonathan Kent had this to say about the activity.”
Clark stared at the sandwich in his hands as his father’s voice came over the radio.
“‘We’ve renovated one of the labs in the building, making it more state-of-the-art to aid in research and development,’” Jonathan said. “‘Our top scientist in the area, Lex Luthor, will be heading up the lab if he chooses to stay with the KentCorp family.’”
The KROW-FM newscaster picked up the story. “Lex Luthor, who is a witness in the case against Clark Kent for allegedly battering a woman, said he was undecided as to if he’d be leaving the company. When questioned if his decision hinged upon the outcome of the case, he indicated that it was his personal feelings for Clark that caused a conflict of interest.
“‘Trust is a difficult thing to give,’” Lex said over the air, his tone shy but sure in his words. “‘Trusting someone means giving them power and control over you. It means putting faith in the intangible, believing that they won’t harm you. It also can mean believing in yourself, that you made the right choices in whom to trust.
“‘I got lost when I was nine and it took me years before I was able to trust anyone. Now, I trust people who others would probably be afraid of, but I’m not because I trust in them and I trust in myself. My trust in Clark has not wavered since the day he invited me over, but he does not trust in return. Therefore, it might be better if I were to leave than to remain in an awkward relationship with his parents in the middle because of my job.’”
The radio station continued on with its news, moving to another subject. Clark tuned out, lowering his sandwich to his plate. Lex had sounded self-assured and knowledgeable from experience. It was weird. Clark felt as if he’d never really heard Lex before, like it was a completely different person who’d spoken on the radio.
But it had been Lex, and Lex was right that Clark didn’t trust. Clark’s fear, like he’d told his parents, was losing control and physically hurting people, including Lex. But as was said over the radio, Lex trusted a lot of people who could physically hurt him, people mutated by the kryptonite in the area, with strength and abnormal powers that sometimes led to mental instability. If he trusted in them, was his trust in Clark as misplaced as Clark thought?
The fact remained, though, that Clark didn’t trust in himself, but he was starting to wonder why. He picked at the cheese poking out from the edges of the toasted bread. He was physically attracted to Lex, but he knew how to have sex without hurting his partner. He couldn’t be afraid of monogamy because he’d been in a successful long-term relationship in the past. He could forget about worrying over being outed, because it had already happened. As for Lex’s emotional maturity, his parents and his friends seemed to think Lex was fine to date. It was possible that Clark had been letting his fears and self-doubt cloud his opinion of Lex.
But it didn’t really matter, did it? Clark was going to be put away for a long time after tomorrow’s hearing and his only relationships would be with men in prison stripes.
“Kent.” The JJC worker assigned to supervise him during lunch approached the table. He held cuffs and shackles in his hands. “Your attorney is here to talk to you. Dump your tray, then prepare to be secured.”
Clark did as told, wondering what Tony wanted. He put both hands flat on the circles painted on the wall of the cafeteria, with his feet shoulder width apart, and stood still as the worker cuffed his ankles. He hoped the hearing wasn’t being postponed. He wanted to get the fact-finding over with and be transferred somewhere he wouldn’t be isolated from others.
The worker connected the link chain to the ankle cuffs and ran it up between Clark’s legs. The chain was wrapped twice around Clark’s waist before being padlocked in the back. The worker then hooked a handcuff over his right wrist. “Keep your left hand in the circle and turn slowly.”
Clark’s right arm was drawn downward as he turned. The worker slipped the free handcuff beneath one of the loops of chain around his waist. He opened the cuff. “Left hand.” Clark lowered his left arm and the cuff was snapped around his wrist, pinning his hands in front of him.
Shuffling with the chains, his flipflops clopping on the tile floor, Clark was led by the worker out of the cafeteria and the secure wing to the interview room. Tony sat waiting for him, his back to the mirror set in the wall. His briefcase was open on the table, a yellow legal pad in front of him. “Thank you,” he told the worker, as Clark sat down. The worker nodded and left.
“What’s going on?” Clark asked Tony once they were alone, though someone could be watching through the window on the other side of the mirror.
“I’m just here to go through a rundown of the proceedings tomorrow,” Tony said, loosening his tie. “At the Pre-Trial, I asked for the public to be excluded and passed on the information that your parents gave me of the possibility of blackmail to get you to admit to the allegations, which is against the law. The Magistrate entered an Order of Exclusion that included this hearing as well as any priors and their outcomes. That should keep the press away from you and your family. Newspapers that would chance a civil suit won’t usually go against an Order that could result in criminal charges. What’s already in the media is fair game, but any new information they receive can’t be published without legal ramifications.”
“So, even if the press got hold of my status as a registered Sex Offender, they couldn’t mention it?” Clark said.
“Not unless they want to go to jail, and I don’t know of any newspapers in Metropolis, even the Inquistor, that would chance it.”
Clark slumped in relief. “Thanks, Tony.”
“Okay, let’s get down to it,” Tony said, taking a pen from his pocket. “At the hearing tomorrow, there will be three witnesses: two for the State and one for the Defense.”
“I’ve been through a juvenile hearing before,” Clark reminded him, but Tony shook his head.
“You admitted last time. This time, we’re holding a full fact-finding.”
“Why am I not admitting this time?” Clark said. “I did do what it says in the charges.”
“But there’s more to the story than what’s written on paper,” Tony said. “Trust me, Clark. I would have advised you to admit to the allegations otherwise.”
“Now,” Tony said, referring to the information on his legal pad. “The State will call its witnesses first: the officer who took the report, Sam Phelan, and then the victim, Desiree Atkins. After they rest, I will call Lex Luthor for the Defense—”
“Lex is going to testify?” Clark interrupted.
“He is an eye-witness to what transpired,” Tony said. “After his testimony, I will rest. Then, closing statements will be given, unless the State calls a rebuttal witness. From what I’ve heard, Magistrate Long makes judgments from the bench, so we’ll know right away if he finds you to be delinquent or not.”
“If he does?”
“The recommendation for disposition is Boys School,” Tony said. “I might be able to argue down to detention here based on the fact that you haven’t been in any trouble with the law for three years, but because of the violent nature of the charges and similar charges in your legal history, plus the fact that you’d still have to be under an Order of Separation here, the Magistrate will most likely follow the recommendation.”
Clark lowered his gaze to his shackled hands. “I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”
“Pass the witness, Your Honor.” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Richard Fentanna, who didn’t look much older than Clark, retook his seat at the Prosecutor’s table.
Clark tried not to shift uncomfortably in his seat. He was bound by his cuffs and shackles and every movement made them clink. The walls of the small courtroom at the JJC echoed sound. Behind him, he could hear his dad’s chair squeak. The row of chairs behind the two tables was empty aside from Jonathan. Martha had opted to sit with Lex in the hallway, to keep him company and to ward off Desiree, if necessary.
The fact-finding hearing had been going on for about an hour. The Prosecutor had run through his questioning of Sam Phelan, who spouted verbatim from the police report while giving Clark bug-eyed smirks. Tony only verified that Phelan’s testimony was a direct result of what Desiree Atkins had told him and had no further questions.
Desiree had been called next by the Prosecutor and her explanation of the events was pretty accurate. The sight of her arm in a cast from shoulder to wrist, immobilizing her broken humerus, made Clark feel badly, especially when he used his x-ray vision and saw the metal plates bolted around the bone for repair. Her cast didn’t seem to hamper her sense of style; the frothy red blouse she wore plunged dangerously low, exposing quite a bit of cleavage.
Magistrate Gordon Long, sitting tall at the raised Judge’s bench, indicated Tony. “Mr. Kaminski.”
Tony rose from his seat beside Clark and buttoned his suit coat. His briefcase was open on the Defense table, along with a file folder, and his ever-present pad of legal paper. The last sat on the table in front of him, filled with notes from the State’s direct examination of the witness. “Miss Atkins, you testified that you were in bed with someone when my client arrived, is that correct?”
“That’s right,” Desiree said. She sat in the box-like witness stand, angled beside the Judge’s bench, a microphone in front of her. The microphone both amplified and recorded her voice, as did the microphones on the two attorneys’ tables. On the other side of the Judge’s bench, a Court Reporter sat at a small desk, taking handwritten notes and adjusting the volume on the stereo-like recorder perched on the corner of the desk.
“Who was that person?” Tony asked, continuing with his cross-examination.
“Lex Luthor,” Desiree replied.
“And what is your relationship to Lex Luthor?”
Desiree appeared confused. “What do you mean?”
“Are you boyfriend/girlfriend? Did you go to school together? Neighbors?” Tony said.
“I just met him at the Expo.”
“You just met him at the Expo,” Tony repeated. “Otherwise, you’ve never seen him before?”
“No,” Desiree said.
“You had no idea who he was?”
“You hadn’t heard of him from your boss or from the newspapers?”
“So, you had never met Lex Luthor before, hadn’t heard of him, he was a complete and total stranger to you?”
“No, I didn’t know him.” Desiree sounded like she was getting annoyed.
“Okay,” Tony said. “Did you know that Lex Luthor was an employee of KentCorp?”
“Objection, Your Honor,” Prosecutor Fentanna said. “If she’d never heard of Mr. Luthor before, how would she know where he worked?”
Magistrate Long frowned a moment, then said, “Overruled.”
“Thank you,” Tony said to the Magistrate and continued his questioning. “Ms. Atkins, I’ll repeat the question: did you know that Lex Luthor was an employee of KentCorp?”
“No,” Desiree replied after a brief hesitation.
She was lying. Clark’s eyes narrowed, but he kept his tongue.
“All right. When did you first meet Mr. Luthor?” Tony asked.
“At the AgExpo,” Desiree said.
“Let me rephrase that,” Tony said. “While at the Expo, where were you when you first met Mr. Luthor?”
“I was working at the Rickman Industries table.”
“Rickman Industries is your employer?”
“What do you do for Rickman Industries?”
“Objection, Your Honor. Irrelevant,” Prosecutor Fentanna interjected.
“Overruled,” Magistrate Long said.
“Ms. Atkins?” Tony prompted.
“I’m a salesgirl,” Desiree said.
Clark snorted silently. He’d bet she was a salesgirl.
“A salesgirl, all right,” Tony said. “In your capacity as a salesgirl, you are aware of the product you sell?”
“And in your capacity as a salesgirl, are you aware of the competition to what you sell?”
“Objection, Your Honor. I don’t see what her job has to do with Mr. Kent’s unprovoked attack on her,” Prosecutor Fentanna said.
“Your Honor, I’m merely setting a foundation to the events that led to the alleged attack,” Tony said.
“Hurry up and do so, then,” Magistrate Long told Tony.
“Yes, Your Honor.” Tony glanced at his notes and continued his questioning. “Ms. Atkins, as a salesgirl, are you aware of your company’s competitors?”
Desiree glanced at the Magistrate. “You may answer, Ms. Atkins,” Magistrate Long said.
“Yes, I know some of them,” Desiree said to Tony.
“Did you know that KentCorp is one of those competitors?” Tony asked.
Desiree hesitated again. Possibly deciding whether to lie or not, Clark thought. “Yes.”
“But you didn’t know that Mr. Luthor worked for KentCorp?”
Desiree shook her head. “No.”
“Okay. Let’s go back to when you first met Mr. Luthor again. You said you met him at the AgExpo?” Tony said.
“When and where did you first meet him?” Tony said.
“Friday evening. I was working at the table and he came by,” Desiree replied.
“That would be Friday, May fourteenth?”
“Was Mr. Luthor alone when he came to the table?” Tony asked.
Tony cocked a silvery eyebrow. “Yes?”
“I mean no,” Desiree said quickly.
“Which is it, Ms. Atkins?”
“He was alone as in single,” Desiree said. “But there were other people that stopped, too, when he came to the table.”
“Ah. Okay.” Tony clasped his hands behind his back. “Do you know who those other people were?”
“Yes,” Desiree said after a moment. “It was the Kents.”
“The Kents. You mean Jonathan, Martha, and Clark Kent? The KentCorp Kents?” Tony said.
Desiree nodded. “Yes.”
“And Lex Luthor was with them?”
“Was he with them?”
“Yes, Ms. Atkins. Was Mr. Luthor with them when they stopped?” Tony said.
“Um, maybe?” Desiree hemmed.
“Maybe yes or maybe no?”
“They stopped at the same time, if that’s what you mean.”
“All right.” Tony took a few steps, coming to stand beside the Defense table. “Mr. Luthor and the Kents stopped at your table at the same time, but you didn’t think they were together, is that correct?”
“Um, that’s correct,” Desiree said.
“And you didn’t know that Mr. Luthor was working for KentCorp, is that correct?”
Prosecutor Fentanna didn’t look up from his notetaking, as he said, “Objection. Asked and answered.”
“Sustained,” Magistrate Long ruled.
Tony shifted the legal pad on the table, glanced over his notes, and continued his cross-examination. “Ms. Atkins, let’s fast-forward a bit. I assume you met up again later with Mr. Luthor, after your work at the Rickman Industries table had been finished for the day?”
“That’s right,” Desiree said. “I ran into him again in the lobby of the hotel.”
“Did he approach you, or did you approach him?” Tony asked.
“I approached him,” Desiree said. Clark paid closer attention to the questions and answers than he had previously. He wanted to know, too, how Desiree had managed to get Lex naked and in bed before Clark arrived and put a stop to her.
“Did he seem pleased to see you?” Tony said.
Desiree smiled sultrily. “Everyone’s pleased to see me, sir.”
“I’m sure they are,” Tony dismissed. “But we’re talking specifically about Lex Luthor.”
“Yes, he was pleased to see me,” Desiree said with a slight huff. “He took me to his room, didn’t he?”
“Was that his suggestion or yours?” Tony countered.
Desiree hesitated. “What do you mean?”
“Did he ask you up to his room, or did you suggest it?” Tony said. “Remember, you’re under oath.”
“I suggested it,” Desiree said. “But he was more than willing to take me somewhere private.”
“And how do you know that, Ms. Atkins?” Tony said.
“He took me to his room, didn’t he?”
“On your suggestion,” Tony said. “I want to know what prompted you to make the suggestion to Mr. Luthor.”
“He was flirting with me,” Desiree said.
“He touched me,” Desiree said. “He pulled me into his arms and kissed me.”
Clark growled, redness creeping into his vision. He felt his dad’s hand on his shoulder. “She’s lying, son,” Jonathan said into his ear. “Keep your temper in check.”
Clark nodded sharply, biting down on his tongue. Jonathan’s chair squeaked as he leaned back again.
“Did anyone witness him doing this?” Tony said, uninterrupted by Clark.
“I don’t know,” Desiree said.
“You were in the lobby of the hotel, weren’t you?” Tony said.
“And the lobby has front desk people?”
“Do you suppose one of them saw you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“What if I were to tell you that someone working the front desk did witness you and Mr. Luthor together, would that change your answer?”
A flash of panic crossed Desiree’s face.
“Ms. Atkins, remember you’re under oath,” Tony said. “Would you like to change your answer?”
“Lex kissed me back and he did touch me,” Desiree said. “My arm was hooked when his when he took me up to his room.”
“So, you initiated the physical contact in the lobby?” Tony said.
“Yes, but he didn’t seem to mind,” Desiree said quickly.
“He didn’t protest at all?”
“Not at any time on the way up to the hotel room?”
“You’re certain about that?” Tony said. “Mr. Luthor didn’t try to stop, or change his mind, or in any way tell you no? Remember, you’re under oath.”
“He didn’t protest,” Desiree stated. “He might have said he changed his mind, but we still went to the room.”
“All right. Notwithstanding his vocal change of mind, a protest of sorts—”
“Objection. Editorial,” Prosecutor Fentanna said.
“Sustained,” Magistrate Long ruled.
Tony clasped his hands behind his back again. “You still ended up in the room, did you not, Ms. Atkins?”
“Yes,” Desiree said.
“What happened next?”
“Objection, Your Honor.” Prosecutor Fentanna stood this time. “We can surmise what occurred without getting into pornographic detail.”
“Your Honor,” Tony said, “the details will demonstrate the motivation behind my client’s alleged actions.”
“Don’t turn this into a Penthouse Forum, Mr. Kaminski,” Magistrate Long warned. “Objection overruled.”
“Thank you,” Tony said. The Prosecutor sat back down. Clark had a feeling he wasn’t going to like the line of questions forthcoming.
“Ms. Atkins, as this is a Court of law, I will keep my questions as clean as possible,” Tony began. “Now, you arrived at the room with Mr. Luthor and you went inside?”
“Yes,” Desiree said, shifting on her seat.
“What kind of hotel room was it?” Tony asked.
“For more than one person?”
“Sometimes,” Desiree said.
“Did you know if Mr. Luthor was staying alone?”
“There was no one in the room,” Desiree said.
“But did you know if he was staying alone, or was he staying with someone?” Tony said.
“I don’t know.”
“Okay. Once you were in the hotel suite, did you go into the bedroom?” Tony said.”Yes.”
“And you took off your clothes?”
“Both of you?” Tony asked. “Or just Mr. Luthor?”
Desiree paused before answering. “Just Lex.”
“Just Lex. Okay. Did you take his clothes off or did he remove them?”
“Objection. Does it really matter?” Prosecutor Fentanna said.
“I wouldn’t ask if it didn’t,” Tony said.
Magistrate Long made a mark in his notes. “Overruled.”
“Ms. Atkins, your answer?” Tony said.
“I helped him,” Desiree replied, her chin tilting defensively.
“You helped him remove his clothes,” Tony said. “Did he tell you to stop at any time?”
“You’re sure?”Desiree became more defensive. “Yes.”
“Okay. Mr. Luthor is naked and you are still fully clothed at this time, right?” Tony said.
“What happened next?”
“We got into bed.”
“While you were still dressed?”
“And Mr. Luthor was completely naked?”
“Objection,” Prosecutor Fentanna interjected. “It’s been established that Mr. Luthor was naked and Ms. Atkins was not.”
“I’ll move on,” Tony said. He shifted through the papers on the Defense table and picked up a copy of the police report. “It says in your report to the police that my client pulled you out of bed when he arrived, is that a correct representation?”
“That’s correct,” Desiree said.
“How were you in bed with Mr. Luthor?” Tony said.
Desiree’s confusion was evident. “How do you mean?”
“Were you next to Mr. Luthor? Under him? On top of him?” Tony clarified.
“I was on top of him,” Desiree said.
“With your clothes on, still?”
“And with Mr. Luthor naked?”
“Your Honor—” Prosecutor Fentanna began.Magistrate Long cut him off. “Mr. Kaminski, I hope your repetition comes with a point.”
“It does, Your Honor,” Tony said.
“Then, get to it.”
Tony nodded and set down the police report. “Ms. Atkins, was Mr. Luthor bound in any way while you were in bed together?”
Desiree glanced at the Magistrate, who indicated for her to answer. “Yes. His wrists were tied.”
“While you were in bed together, did Mr. Luthor tell you to stop at any time?” Tony said.
“Not at all?” Tony said. “He didn’t say that he didn’t like it, or for you not to do something, or make any sort of verbal protests?”
“He might have said no once or twice, but he didn’t really mean it,” Desiree said. Her mouth curved. “No male ever does.”
“So, Mr. Luthor did say ‘no’ more than one time, yet you continued with your sex-related activities?” Tony said.
“Until he showed up and hurt me,” Desiree said, pointing at Clark. Clark’s lips drew back in a snarl, exposing his teeth. He shouldn’t have shown such emotion, but he was barely keeping a lid on his desire to maim her again for touching Lex.
Tony kept the cross-examination moving. “Is that a yes or no, Ms. Atkins?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Desiree said. “Like I said, Lex didn’t actually mean it.”
“Okay. Let me see if I got this right,” Tony said. “You ‘suggested’ to Lex Luthor that you go up to the hotel room, he changes his mind along the way, but you still end up in the bedroom of the suite. You take Mr. Luthor’s clothes off, bind his wrists, and sit on top of him on the bed, while you’re still fully dressed, and when he says no, you don’t stop your activities with his naked body. In fact, you still don’t stop when he says no again. It isn’t until my client arrives that your actions are halted. Is that a fair account of what happened?”
“You make it sound so bad,” Desiree said.
“Do you know what the definition of rape is, Ms. Atkins?”
Desiree didn’t answer. The Prosecutor also didn’t object.
Tony took out a paperback-sized Kansas Statute Book from his briefcase. Several of the pages were marked at the top with brightly colored paperclips. He opened to one of the clipped pages. “Ms. Atkins, if I were to tell you that the definition of rape is: sexual intercourse with a person who does not consent to the sexual intercourse, when the victim is overcome by force or fear, or when the victim is physically powerless, would you say that was accurate?”
“Lex wasn’t physically powerless. He’s a guy,” Desiree said defensively.
“But he still said no, did he not?” Tony said.
“And his hands were bound, were they not?”
“And you were sitting on top of him, were you not?”
“And you were fully clothed while he was naked, were you not?”
“Putting you in a position of power over him psychologically, is that not correct?”
“I didn’t rape him!” Desiree practically yelled.
“But he said no more than once. In fact, he had even changed his mind before you got up to the room to begin with,” Tony said. “So, it would be fair to say that Mr. Luthor did not want to have any sort of sexual contact with you, is that correct?”
Desiree didn’t answer, her jaw tight.
“No further questions, Your Honor.” Tony retook his seat. Clark felt about as stunned as Desiree by the turn of events.
“Mr. Fentanna?” Magistrate Long said.
“Ms. Atkins, did you believe you were having sexual relations between two consenting adults?” Prosecutor Fentanna asked in re-direct examination.
“Yes,” Desiree replied firmly.
“No further questions.”
Magistrate Long looked at Tony. “Mr. Kaminski?”
“No more questions, Your Honor.”
“Thank you, Ms. Atkins. You may step down,” Magistrate Long said to Desiree.
Clark averted his gaze, not giving in to the temptation to crow at her, as Desiree stepped down from the witness stand. The Prosecutor conversed with her briefly and she left the courtroom.
Magistrate Long continued with the hearing. “Mr. Fentanna?”Prosecutor Fentanna stood. “The State rests, Your Honor. However, we reserve the right to call rebuttal witnesses.”
“Very good. Mr. Kaminski?”
“Defense would like to call Lex Luthor to the stand,” Tony said. He went to the door to call Lex into the courtroom.Jonathan leaned forward and rested his hand on the back of Clark’s neck. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m okay,” Clark said. “Can you believe what Tony just did?”
“Yes, I can, Clark. There’s a reason he’s our lawyer as well as our friend,” Jonathan said. He squeezed Clark’s neck and leaned back in his chair, as Lex and Martha came into the courtroom.
Clark barely saw his mother grace him with a supporting smile; his focus was captured by Lex. Lex wore a full suit, tailored to his body. Sharp creases lined the fronts of his trouser legs, the smoke gray suit coat buttoned over a crisp white shirt. A gray and violet striped tie was knotted smartly at his throat. His dress shoes squeaked on the tile. The red-orange tuft of hair curled lightly towards the back of his head.
Lex caught Clark’s eye and gave him a tiny smile that weakened Clark in the knees while he was already sitting down. His palms itched to touch, and not just because of how hot Lex looked in a fitted suit. He wanted to make sure that Lex was really there. He felt as though he hadn’t seen Lex in forever, even if it had only been a few weeks. What was he going to when Lex moved away?
“Mr. Luthor,” Magistrate Long said, raising his right hand. “Will you raise your right hand and I’ll swear you in?”
Standing in front of the bench, Lex lifted his right hand. He didn’t seem to be as skittish as he was the last time he’d been in Court. The Magistrate began the oath. “Do you solemnly affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, under the penalties of perjury?”
“Yes,” Lex said.
“You may be seated, then, at the witness stand.”
Clark figured Tony must’ve shown Lex the courtroom prior to the hearing, as Lex didn’t hesitate or look awkwardly around, wondering where to go. Lex took the seat at the witness stand, sitting up straight and tall, with the microphone in front of him.
“Mr. Luthor,” Tony began his direct examination, standing behind the table, next to Clark. “Will you state your full name for the record, please?”
“Alexander Joseph Luthor,” Lex answered clearly.
“And do you go by ‘Lex’?” Tony said.
“Lex, I’m going to ask you a series of questions about the night of May fourteenth. Do you recall that night?” Tony asked.
“Where were you on May fourteenth?”
“At the AgExpo in Metropolis,” Lex said.
“Were you staying at a hotel?”
“Yes, at the Metropolis Marriott.”
“Who were you with at the Expo?”
“I was with Mr. and Mrs. Kent all weekend, and Clark was there on Friday night,” Lex said.
“Clark as in Clark Kent?” Tony said.
“And is Clark Kent in the courtroom?”
“Yes.” The smile Clark received was bigger than the last one and his stomach flipped.
“Will you tell me where he’s seated?” Tony said.
“Right next to you,” Lex replied.
“Let the record show that Mr. Luthor has identified Clark Kent,” Tony said to the Magistrate.
“So reflected,” Magistrate Long said.
“Lex, on Friday, May fourteenth, did you happen upon one Desiree Atkins at the Expo?” Tony said, continuing with his direct examination. He had told Clark that he’d run through the questions he was going to ask with Lex, so Lex wouldn’t be nervous at the hearing.
“Yes,” Lex replied.
“Where did you first meet her?”
“In the exhibit hall. She was giving out pamphlets at the Rickman Industries table.”
“And what did you think of her?”
Lex shrugged. “She was falling out of her dress.”
Clark’s lips twitched and he heard Jonathan and Martha smother soft chuckles behind him.
“Did you think she was attractive?” Tony asked.
“I guess,” Lex said.
“Let’s skip ahead to later in the evening. Did you meet up with Ms. Atkins again?”
“In the lobby.”
“And what were you doing in the lobby?”
“Waiting for Clark,” Lex said, glancing at Clark again.
“You were not there to meet Ms. Atkins?” Tony said.
“When you saw her in the lobby, did you walk up to her to say hello?” Tony asked.
“No. She came up to me.”
“What did she say?”
“She wanted to talk to me about going to work for Rickman Industries.”
“What did you say to her?” Tony said.
“I told her I didn’t like Mr. Rickman and would never work for him,” Lex said.
“What did she do next?”
“She rubbed herself against me and breathed on me.” Lex made a face. “She smelled like heavy perfume. It made my head fuzzy.”
“You felt lightheaded?” Tony said.
“Maybe a little dizzy?”
“What happened next?”
“Ms. Atkins said we should go up to my room,” Lex said. “She took my arm and led me to the elevators.”
“Did you want to go up to your room with her?” Tony asked.
“Did you tell her that?”
“In the elevator,” Lex said. “I told her I wanted to go back to the lobby and wait for Clark.”
“What was her response?”
“She rubbed all over me again with her stinky perfume making my head fuzzy.”
“Did she take you back to the lobby?” Tony said.
“No. She held my arm and led me to the hotel room I was staying in,” Lex said.
“Did you open the door, or did she?”
“She did. She took the keycard from my pocket. She pinched my left buttock, too.”
Clark didn’t catch his snort of laughter quick enough. Neither did his parents. Nor did the Prosecutor.
“What happened once you both were in the room?” Tony continued questioning.
“She told me that Rickman Industries wanted to hire me again,” Lex replied. “She said she was sent to persuade me to say yes.”
“Did she say how she was going to try and persuade you?”
“Did you figure out on your own how she was going to try and persuade you?”
“Lex, have you ever had sex before?”
Lex flushed a fetching shade of pink, ducked his chin, but he answered the question steadily. “No.”
“Up until the day this occurred, have you ever been approached by someone asking to have sex with you?” Tony said.
“Up until the day this occurred, has someone ever touched you in a way that would indicate they wanted to have sex with you?”
“How far would you say you’ve gone intimately with another person, by your own choice?”
“I kissed Clark.” Lex flicked a glance at Clark, not lifting his chin. The pink on cheeks and scalp deepened in color.
“Was that before or after what happened with Ms. Atkins?”
“After. Clark kissed me before, though,” Lex said. “That’s why I was waiting for him in the lobby.”
“Clark kissed you,” Tony repeated. “Just once?”
“No other times before Ms. Atkins approached you on May fourteenth?”
“So then you would say that your sexual experience with others up until Ms. Atkins was limited to one kiss?”
“Okay. Let’s go back to the hotel room.” Tony referred to his notes that had been taken when he deposed Lex. “You said Ms. Atkins spoke about Rickman Industries wanting to hire you. Then, what did she do?”
“She pulled me into the bedroom and then started taking off my clothes,” Lex said, looking down still. The microphone amplified his voice.
“Did you want her to take your clothes off?” Tony asked.
“Did you try to stop her?”
“My head was funny from her perfume,” Lex said. “She had my shirt off before I knew what she was doing. Then she pulled my pants and underwear down and pushed me. I fell on the bed.”
“So, you were lightheaded and dizzy from her perfume, making it easy for her to unbalance you,” Tony said. “What did she do once she got your clothes off?”
“Tied my wrists together with my nametag cord.” Lex was beginning to sound upset. Clark shifted on his seat, tensing.
“Did you ask her to tie your wrists together?” Tony said.
“No,” Lex replied.
“Did you want her to tie your wrists together?”
“Did you tell her to stop or that you didn’t want your wrists to be tied?”
“I told her I didn’t like it,” Lex said.
“And what did she say to that?” Tony said.
“She laughed and tried to asphyxiate me with her breasts.”
Clark’s fingers curled into fists.
“Can you be more specific?” Tony said. “How did she try to asphyxiate you?”
“She grabbed my head and shoved my face into her cleavage,” Lex said, growing pronounceably more upset. “It was hot and smelly and I couldn’t breathe.”
“What happened next?”
“She shoved be back on the bed, moved my legs, and climbed on top of me.” Lex drew a shaky hand over his head, brushing back the tuft of hair. “She sat down right on my genitals.”
“Did you like that?”
Clark started to growl again, a low vibration deep in his chest.
“I told her I didn’t like it. I told her to stop touching me, but she wouldn’t stop!” Lex wrapped his arms around himself. “She kept touching my penis and putting her hands on me, and I didn’t invite her to do that. Why did she think she could do that?”
“Is that when Clark arrived?” Tony said.
“Yes.” Lex eyes met Clark’s, emotion overflowing in them. “He made her finally stop.”
“Why didn’t you push her away and just leave?” Tony continued questioning. “You’re much larger than she is.”
“Her perfume made my head muzzy,” Lex said. “It was hard to move.”
“Any other reason?”
Lex looked down and away. His voice was barely audible, even with the microphone. “I was scared.”
“Scared? How so?”
“She took my clothes and tied my hands and sat on me, and I couldn’t move because of her perfume,” Lex said quietly. “And then she was touching me and wouldn’t stop when I said no and I couldn’t understand why she didn’t.”
“So, you were definitely in fear of her?”
“And she was going to force you to do something you didn’t want to do?”
“And do you feel that she wouldn’t have stopped at all, until Clark intervened?”
“Objection, Your Honor. Speculative,” Prosecutor Fentanna said.
“I’m asking about his own feelings, Your Honor,” Tony said.
“Overruled,” Magistrate Long said. “Go ahead.”
“I’ll repeat the question,” Tony said. “Lex, do you feel that Ms. Atkins would not have stopped until Clark intervened?”
“I don’t think she would’ve stopped,” Lex said, hugging himself.
“Do you think that Clark, coming into the hotel room and seeing you in that position, would’ve come to the same conclusion?”
“Objection again, Your Honor. Speculation,” Prosecutor Fentanna said. “He can’t testify as to what Mr. Kent was thinking.”
“I’ll rephrase the question, Your Honor,” Tony said. “Lex, were you glad that Clark came to your defense?”
“Yes.” Lex sent a grateful look in Clark’s direction. “Very glad.”
“Do you feel that Clark’s actions were unjustified?”
“All he did was yank her off me,” Lex said. “She crashed into the mirror at the end of the bed. That’s how she got hurt.”
“No further questions, Your Honor,” Tony said, and sat down.
Clark felt his mom’s hand brush across his back and he relaxed slightly. The low growl faded. It was over, for now.
“Mr. Fentanna, any cross?” Magistrate Long asked.
“Yes, Your Honor.” Prosecutor Fentanna stood, angling his legal pad on the table in front of him. He looked at Lex and smiled politely. “Hello, Lex. I’m Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Richard Fentanna.”
“Hi,” Lex said, dropping his arms to fiddle with the button of his suit coat.
“I have a few questions for you about what you just testified to, okay?” Prosecutor Fentanna glanced at his notes. “How old are you, Lex?”
“Twenty-two,” Lex replied.
“And you’ve never had sex before?”
“And you’ve never fooled around?” Prosecutor Fentanna said. “Never made out on the couch or in a car?”
“You’ve only ever kissed Clark, is that correct?”
“Yes.” Lex darted a look at Clark and then continued playing with the button of his suit coat.
“So, if Ms. Atkins was interested in having sexual relations with you, she’d have to make the first move, is that correct?”
“I don’t want to have any relations with her,” Lex said.
“But if you were going to, she would have to be the aggressor, right?”
“I would never have relations with her.”
“But if you did—”
“Objection, Your Honor,” Tony spoke up. “Badgering the witness.”
“Overruled,” Magistrate Long said.
“Mr. Luthor, will you answer the question?” Prosecutor Fentanna said.
“I did,” Lex said.
“No, you didn’t. I asked if Ms. Atkins would have to be the aggressor if she wanted to pursue sexual relations with you.”
“No, you asked that if I wanted to have sexual relations with her, she’d have to be the aggressor. I said that I would never have sexual relations with her,” Lex said.
“And why wouldn’t you have relations with her, Mr. Luthor?” Prosecutor Fentanna said.
“Because I don’t like her,” Lex said. “And she’s a woman, too.”
Prosecutor Fentanna paused a moment. “Are you homosexual, Mr. Luthor?”
“Okay. That answers my question.” Prosecutor Fentanna crossed several things from his legal pad. “Did you tell Ms. Atkins that you were homosexual?”
“She didn’t ask me.”
Clark hid his smile. Prosecutor Fentanna looked a bit perturbed. “Didn’t you think that if you told Ms. Atkins that you didn’t like women, she’d leave you alone?”
“I told her no,” Lex said, lifting his gaze. “That should’ve been sufficient.”
“Thank you. I have no further questions,” Prosecutor Fentanna said.
“Any re-direct?” Magistrate Long asked.
“No, Your Honor,” Tony said.
“Very good. Thank you,” Magistrate Long addressed Lex. “You may step down.”
Lex left the witness stand much more skittish than when he’d first stepped in the box. Clark longed to comfort him. The job was given to Martha, though, as she curved an arm around Lex’s shoulders and led him out of the courtroom.
“Anything further, Mr. Kaminski?” Magistrate Long asked, drawing Clark back into the hearing.
“Defense rests, Your Honor,” Tony said.
“Simply a closing statement, Your Honor,” Prosecutor Fentanna replied.
The Magistrate nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Thank you, Your Honor.” Prosecutor Fentanna smoothed his suit coat and began his closing statement. “Your Honor, we’re here today in regards to a charge of aggravated battery, which is defined by State code as knowingly or intentionally having personal contact with someone that results in grievous bodily harm. I’ve established by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Kent grabbed the victim herein with enough force to cause her to crash into a closet door, causing serious injury to her. Mr. Kent’s own witness testified that he did, in fact, knowingly do so. Therefore, Your Honor, the State recommends a finding of delinquency in accordance with law. Thank you.”
Prosecutor Fentanna sat down as Tony stood and made his own closing statement. “Your Honor, it is my belief that the charges pending arose by my client acting on the defense of another. I have demonstrated that Ms. Atkins’ actions could be construed as rape by her own testimony, that Mr. Luthor himself felt he was being raped, as he was both in fear of Ms. Atkins and being forced into a situation that he did not consent to, and that my client walked into this scenario and reacted immediately and instinctively. The officer testified to the fact that Mr. Kent does know martial arts and that his pulling of Ms. Atkins off Mr. Luthor’s naked and bound form could have resulted in her hitting the closet door. His actions, however, were based solely on the defense of Mr. Luthor’s safety and the prevention of a more heinous crime. Therefore, I would ask that the Court find my client not delinquent of the charges herein. Thank you.”
Tony retook his seat, touching Clark briefly on the arm for reassurance. Magistrate Long shifted his jaw and unfurled papers on the bench before him. “I have to admit,” the Magistrate began, “I haven’t had quite this dilemma before regarding charges in a case. Usually, children either did it, or they didn’t do it. There’s no gray area in terms of the law, even in battery cases. If you get into a fight, it doesn’t matter who started it, if you’re charged, you’re found delinquent.
“Here, however, there is enough evidence to support the allegations that Mr. Lex Luthor was being raped by Ms. Desiree Atkins,” Magistrate Long continued. “It shames me to hear that the investigation of the battery towards Ms. Atkins did not reveal her own culpability in the events that occurred on Friday, May the fourteenth. Mr. Luthor is correct in that his saying no should have been enough. Although Mr. Kent did not testify on his own behalf, I will assume, most likely correctly, that he heard Mr. Luthor’s protests and that, along with the position he found Mr. Luthor in, was what prompted his violent behavior.
“Now,” Magistrate Long said, looking directly at Clark. “Although I sympathize with Mr. Luthor and the situation you came upon, Mr. Kent, a gentle push would have worked as sufficiently a shove. So would have calling the police. Your use of violence was not necessary in the defense of Mr. Luthor. Because of this, I should find you delinquent of the allegations as filed.”
Clark felt the bottom of his stomach fall out. As with before, just because he expected it didn’t mean he actually wanted it to happen, or was prepared for it.
“However, because your actions were based on the defense of another, I will be somewhat lenient,” Magistrate Long said. “I will defer adjudication in this matter until your eighteenth birthday, Mr. Kent, with the following conditions.”
Tony uncapped his pen to take down what the Magistrate said. Clark tried not to appear as relieved as he felt. He was getting a break he probably didn’t deserve. He listened carefully to the conditions of deferral. He couldn’t blow it.
“You will be placed on Official Probation until your eighteenth birthday,” Magistrate Long began listing. “You will successfully complete an anger-management class. You will pay restitution for Ms. Atkins’ medical bills, said amount to be determined by Probation within thirty days. You will write an essay titled ‘What the Good Samaritan Law Actually Means’ and a second one titled ‘Self-Defense and the Law’. You will complete twenty-five hours of community service over the summer. Finally, you will pay Probation User Fees and Court costs.
“If you complete all that and stay out of trouble with the law for the next five months, on your eighteenth birthday I will dismiss these charges,” Magistrate Long said. “Do you understand, Mr. Kent?”
“Yes, sir,” Clark said. “Thank you, sir.”
Magistrate Long pointed his finger at Clark. “This is a one-time deal, Mr. Kent. If I find you in my courtroom for anything, including littering, I will adjudge you a delinquent of that charge and this one and ship you off to Boys School that day with a bow around your head. Do I make myself clear?”
“Good.” Magistrate Long closed his file. “Court is adjourned. Mr. Kent can be released to the custody of his parents this date. Thank you.”
Clark didn’t cheer or anything, because he knew he was getting a break. He watched the Magistrate leave the courtroom, along with his Court Reporter. “Thanks, Tony,” Clark said, once it was polite to speak.
“Like I said, Clark, I would have told you to admit if I felt that you deserved to take your lumps,” Tony said. The Prosecutor caught Tony’s attention and Tony excused himself.
Jonathan took Tony’s seat and clapped his hand on Clark’s shoulder. “You okay?”
“Yeah. You?” Clark said.
“I’m trying to convince myself not to go break that Atkins woman’s other arm,” Jonathan said. “Lex never said anything.”
“I guess he’s stronger than we thought,” Clark said.
“I guess he is.” Jonathan squeezed Clark’s shoulder. “Ready to get out of here?”
Clark smiled his first real smile in weeks. “Like you wouldn’t believe.”
Clark was tempted to stay home from school on Thursday, the day after his release from the JJC. His parents would have let him. But it would be a coward’s way out and he had been taught to meet all challenges with his head held high. Returning to school branded as villain would certainly be a challenge.
Luckily, the school day was truncated. The State mandated a certain number of educational days per year and, to meet that requirement, schools were required to be in attendance until 10:00 a.m.. Attendance was mandatory, but the teachers were lax, so after roll was taken students were allowed to roam and visit with each other, signing yearbooks and cleaning out their lockers. The last attendance of the day would be taken at the beginning of what would normally be third period and then the students would be released for the summer.
Clark crouched in front of his open locker, cleaning out the crap he’d accumulated over the school year. He tried to ignore the gossiping about him, but his newfound super-hearing didn’t make it easy. Even though he wasn’t purposefully listening for his name, his subconscious seemed to be, and every mention of “Clark” or “Kent” sent his hearing zeroing in on the conversation.
Clark had spent his first hour speaking with Principal Kwan and arranging to complete his final exams the following week. Principal Kwan was rightfully concerned about having Clark in his school and Clark had to convince him that his arresting actions had been in the defense of another and that he wouldn’t go beating up other students in his halls.The other students didn’t seem convinced, though. People were either afraid of him or disgusted, if the alien-heard whispers were any indication. Damage control would be difficult, since what he’d done to Desiree Atkins had been in all the papers, but not why he’d done it. He could go to the newspapers himself and tell them it had been in defense of Lex, but that seemed like making excuses. Magistrate Long had been right: he could have stopped her without injuring her. His penance would be public opinion, a reminder not to let his control slip away from him again, red kryptonite notwithstanding.
His friends, on the other hand, deserved an explanation because they were his friends. He hadn’t seen anyone yet, not even Lana, because he’d been at the Principal’s office during attendance of both first and second periods. He had a feeling of where he could find at least two of them, and after stuffing the last of his junk in his backpack, he slammed his empty locker shut and headed for the Torch office.
Clark stopped in the doorway to the Torch, hand clenching the shoulder strap of his backpack. Chloe and Pete weren’t the only ones in the office. Justin, Jodi, Lana and Whitney were there, too, scattered around the room. Their conversation came to a stop when their attention caught on Clark.
Voices in the hallways echoed behind him, but a heavy silence filled the Torch. Clark shifted, the back of his neck heating with shame. Fear trickled through him. What if his friends didn’t want to be friends with him anymore?
“Well don’t just stand there, you moron,” Chloe said, bouncing off of Justin’s lap. “Get in here, close the door, and tell us everything!”
A smile of relief broke out over Clark’s face and he suddenly found himself engulfed in a cloud of springtime perfume. He hugged Lana back and endured Whitney’s glare. Laughing softly, he leaned back and grinned down at her. “I missed you guys.”
“You were missed,” Lana said, rising on her toes to kiss him on the cheek. “Welcome back.”
“So tell, man,” Pete said, shoving a chair in Clark’s direction with his foot. Jodi sat beside him on the metal teacher’s desk along one side of the converted classroom. “How was life on the inside?”
“Lonely.” Clark closed the Torch office door, tossed his backpack in a corner, and took a seat. Immediately, he had a lapful of Chloe and another warm, welcome hug. “Thank you,” he whispered in her ear, her crazy hair poking him in the face.
“We’re friends, Clark,” Chloe whispered back. “Nothing changes that.”
Clark blinked away the moisture in his eyes, squeezed her a little tighter before reluctantly letting go. Chloe didn’t leave his lap, however, instead squirming into a comfortable sideways position, one arm looped around his neck.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” Justin warned him, humor twinkling in his gaze. “When winter hits, I’m going to want my lap-warmer back.”
“I promise not to keep her that long,” Clark said.
“Since you’re free, I take it the Judge found you not guilty or whatever?” Whitney said, his arm around Lana’s shoulders. They sat in two chairs near the row of old study carrels in front of the windows.
“Sort of,” Clark said. “Since I was protecting Lex when it happened, Magistrate Long decided to go easy on me. As long as I do certain things and stay out of trouble, he’ll dismiss the charges when I turn eighteen.”
“We were worried,” Chloe said. “We found out Desiree Atkins was in Smallville during the meteorite shower. We thought you had maybe injured her when fighting her and whatever mutant ability she had, kind of like with Trent Shivs.”
“Or Scott Bowman,” Whitney added.
Clark shook his head. “She might be an MA, but that’s not why she got hurt. There was no fight.”
A guilty expression crept across Chloe’s face. “We know. Pete swiped his mom’s keys and we kind of borrowed your juvenile file from the Clerk’s office.”
Clark tensed, dread and a bit of anger seeping into his veins. “What do you know?”
“Uh, you know, stuff.” Chloe shrugged and smiled overly bright. “Hey, but that’s behind you, right? It doesn’t matter what you did in the past, it what you do in the now that’s important.”
Clark’s gaze slid from her to pass over the others in the room. No one looked confused as to what she meant. In fact, they appeared somewhat embarrassed for knowing. “You read my legal history. All of you.”
“I only heard, dude,” Justin said, holding up his hands. “No reading here.”
“It’s okay, Clark.” Jodi gave him a timid smile. “We already knew you were one of us. You probably needed a period of adjustment, like me.”
“And me,” Justin said. The desk drawer under Jodi and Pete’s legs opened and pens and pencils began jumping out. The lined themselves on the floor into a message: MAs Unite!
“I, uh, hear dead people sometimes,” Lana spoke up, looking self-conscious. “If I’m in the cemetery. They like to say my name.”
Whitney squeezed her shoulder and kissed her temple.
“You’re strong, you’re gay, you’re ugly, and yo’ mama dresses you funny,” Pete razzed. “Guess what? We don’t care. Though we did start a plastic surgery fund for you.”
The pens and pencils leapt off the ground in and began showering down on Pete’s head, to his vocal outrage and Jodi and Justin’s laugher. Lana giggled and Whitney took that as a sign to tickle her.
Clark looked at Chloe seated in his lap and Chloe graced him with a soft smile. “You can’t get rid of us that easily. Sorry.”
“I don’t deserve friends like you,” Clark said, a husky note to his voice.
“The fates don’t give you the friends you deserve, you get the friends you need.” Chloe poked him in the chest. “Now, tell me what it was really like being at the JJC. I want to do an expose on the horrors of our legal system for the Torch Online. Pete’s got the other side of the argument covered and…”
Clark let Chloe’s voice fade into a pleasant, familiar drone, joining the hum of his other friends’ voices. It was good to be free.
“We’re free!” Justin did a little dance outside the school, soft-shoeing up and down the cement steps. Students poured from the double doorway, escaping for the summer, the echoing ding of the final bell fading in the air. The eight friends headed down the stairs with the crowd.
“I’ve got the Torch Online assignments at home,
if you want to get a head start.” Chloe hooked her arm with Clark’s.
“First issue will be posted next Friday.”
“Whitney,” Jodi said. “My dad found his old MetU football playbook. Would you like to come over and get it?”
“Sure. I’ll swing by after I drop Lana off at the Talon,” Whitney replied, arm slung around Lana’s shoulder. “Unless you want to ride with?”
“Okay.” Jodi turned to her boyfriend. “Pete—”
“I’d better go to Chloe’s anyway,” Pete said. “She’ll skin me white if I don’t get my assignment right this second.”
Chloe leaned forward to look past Clark at Pete, on his other side. “I’ll use a potato peeler, too.”
“Is that Lex?” Lana said.
Clark turned in the direction she was looking and stumbled over his feet. Chloe and Pete caught him before he fell on his face.
Lex pushed off the base of the Crows statue and met them at the bottom of the steps. The fitted deep burgundy shirt he wore was tucked in and unbuttoned at the collar. The shirt set off his sun-tanned his skin, warmed to the color of a butterscotch toffee.
His head was completely bald.
“Hi,” he said, looking at Clark.
“You have no hair,” Clark blurted in response.
The students leaving the school filtered around the group standing on the sidewalk. Lex slid his hand from his pocket and ran it over his bare head. “Pete cut it for me last night.”
“I am an expert.” Pete swiped his palm over his nearly shorn hair.
“Why did you do that?” Clark said, his voice sounding off-key. He lifted his hand and hesitated in touching Lex. Lex had no hair. His head was so smooth. He looked… adult.
“It was time for a change,” Lex said. “Lana and Chloe said it looked good.”
“It does,” Chloe assured him.
“I came to tell you that I’ve decided to accept working in the lab at the KentCorp plant,” Lex said, tucking his hand back into his pocket. “Unless you have a problem with that, Clark?”
Clark blinked a couple times, trying to focus on something other than Lex’s lack of hair. “Uh, I thought you were moving to Vancouver.”
Lex shrugged. “Pam says I would be running away if I did.”
“So, you’re staying?”
“Um, good.” Clark felt a knot untie inside him. Despite everything, he hadn’t wanted Lex to leave. “I’m glad.”
Lex tilted his head slightly, studying him with his soul-piercing stare. “Are you?”
Clark smiled slowly. It didn’t change anything, but… “Yeah, I am.”
“Everyone’s glad, Lex,” Lana said. “No one here wanted to see you go.”
“Yeah, who would help me with my MA database?” Chloe said.
“And who would rescue Chloe while she’s working on the database?” Pete added.
Jodi grinned shyly at Lex. “I’d miss my friend.”
“Dude, is it getting mushy out here?” Justin called over to Whitney. “It feels mushy. Better watch out for group hugs. They can sneak up on you without warning, like stealth snuggles.”
“Stealth snuggles!” Chloe exclaimed, latched onto Justin, and swung him around to the other side of Lex. Lana laughed and dragged Whitney over. Pete exchanged looks with Jodi and pulled her into the fray.
Lex ended up in the center of a loudly laughing hug-circle that pressed him against Clark, tip to toe. Clark could hear Lex’s heart speed up and the hitch in his breath. He could see freckles beginning to darken across Lex’s nose and at the corner of his left eye. Blue eyes that saw everything drew Clark in, pulling him closer and closer…
“I love you,” Lex breathed against his lips, and Clark was gone.
His mouth crushed against Lex’s, right there outside the school, kissing him where the world could see. His lips moved against Lex’s and Lex kissed him back, awkward and unknowing, pressing too hard or too tentatively. Their hot breaths mingled and teeth knocked. It was messy and imperfect and Clark felt like a balloon was inflating in the center of his chest, lifting him right off the ground.
“Stealth snuggle Clark!”
Hands grabbed him roughly, pulling on his shoulders, another yanking at his arm. Clark almost snarled as he broke away from Lex, glaring at the person closest to them. Chloe gave him a wide-eyed panicked look. “You’re floating,” she hissed, yanking harder on his arm.Clark clunked his chin on Lex’s head as they both looked down quickly. “Ow,” Lex said, stepping back and rubbing his forehead.
Clark didn’t apologize. He was too busy staring at his feet, hovering six inches above the sidewalk.
Chloe, Pete, Lana, Justin, Jodi, and Whitney surrounded him, blocking his gravity defiance from view. Whitney had his shoulders, trying to push him back to the ground. Clark’s gaze shot up, his eyes as wide as Chloe’s. “Uh…”
He dropped suddenly, gravity reaching out her scolding hand and yanking him back to earth. Part of the hug-circle of friends toppled with him, Chloe on one side, Pete and Jodi on the other, and he stumbled forward right into Lex’s arms.
Lex, who loved him.
Lex’s lips curved in the corners, his eyes twinkling with vast amusement. “Pam told me any man I kissed wouldn’t be able to stop from falling for me, but she also told me it was a figure of speech.”
Clark found his footing and slowly drew out of Lex’s steadying hold. Around him, his friends were getting to their feet. He could feel their questioning stares, as well as the stares from the students leaving the school. He dragged his hand through his hair, his heart thudding against his breastbone.
“I- I…” Clark was at a loss of what to say. Lex loved him. “You…”
Clark’s confusion and panic must’ve been evident. The amusement faded from Lex’s face, becoming sadness. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels. “You said I would just know if I was in love, and I do,” he said, and the stares around Clark became more focused. “I know you don’t love me back, but that’s okay. You don’t have to. I won’t be mad.”
Clark’s throat tightened. His mouth opened, but no sound came out.
Lex glanced up at the sunny sky and back at Clark. “I have to go to the plant now. Mr. and Mrs. Kent are meeting me there at half-past ten. Bye.”
Clark stared after Lex as he walked away. Suddenly, Chloe whapped Clark upside the head. “Hey!” he exclaimed.
“What are you waiting for?” Chloe gave him a push. “Go after him!”
“And say what?” Clark said, not moving.
Whitney let out a loud laugh. Justin goggled at Clark. “Are you for real, dude?”
“Clark, you are such a dummy,” Lana declared. She slid her hand in Whitney’s and she dragged him after Lex. “Lex! Hey, Lex, wait up!”
Pete clapped his hand on Clark’s shoulder, opened his mouth to say something, and instead shook his head with a loud sigh. He wrapped his arm around Jodi and followed after Lana and Whitney.
“Haley Joel Osment-ina is right,” Chloe said. “Call me when you get your brain online.”
She went off in the opposite direction with Justin, and Clark was left standing on the sidewalk, confused and alone.End