Boring would aptly describe the Smallville Farmers Market. So would snooze-worthy and dull. Not that the Noblesville Farmers Market had been any more thrilling, but at least Clark Kent had friends there to help pass the time.
Clark leaned against the post holding up one side of the KentCorp sign. He’d agreed to play the Dutiful Son and stand with his parents in a booth at the Market. It was good public relations for the company to meet the locals and to show that the Kents were a down-home family, just like everyone else – if the family consisted of two millionaires and an alien.
The Market was crowded. Multi-colored tents and wooden booths were set up at the County Fairgrounds, selling fruit, vegetables, and homemade arts and crafts. Both locals and people from Metropolis who drove in for the day wandered around the Market in the pleasant fall weather.
“And this is our son, Clark.” Clark smiled politely on cue, greeting the whatever-hundredth Smallvillian to come by the Kent booth. What he wouldn’t give for Chloe or Pete to show up and entertain him.
Clark’s wish was granted, though not in the form of his two new friends. Whitney Fordman stared at Clark from across the way. His girlfriend, Lana Lang, was with him, examining the colored glass butterflies on display at Gina Watson’s booth. Clark stared unwaveringly back at Whitney, not cowing in memory of being strung up as a scarecrow last night.
Whitney said something to Lana and then wove his way through the throng of Marketers over to Clark. Clark continued leaning casually against the post, choosing not to act as a jilted lover and create an embarrassing scene. If his parents weren’t there, he might have, even though he’d decided on the tried and true poison-ivy-in-the-jock-strap prank for revenge.
“Kent,” Whitney said, coming up beside Clark. “I see you got down.”
“No thanks to you,” Clark said, glancing over at his parents, who were involved in a discussion with another couple. He didn’t feel sick in Whitney’s presence, other than with disgust. It added credence to the theory that it had been the necklace, not the quarterback, that had cause Clark’s strange weakness.
Whitney shrugged. “It was just a prank, Kent. Happens every year.”
“Not anymore,” Clark said matter-of-factly. “I think you’ll find the tradition has been broken when you read the next issue of the Torch. ”
Clark smirked when he saw a flash of fear in Whitney’s eyes. “What’s the matter, Fordman? Afraid you’ll be crucified?”
Whitney’s lips thinned and shoulder bunched under his Crows letter jacket. He wanted to hit Clark, Clark could tell. “You wouldn’t dare. You’d be humiliated, too.”
“Girls tend to fawn over victims.” Clark flicked his gaze to Lana. “I guess I’d have to suffer under their tender hands of comfort–”
“Stay away from Lana,” Whitney growled. “And give me back her necklace.”
“I don’t have it.” Clark let his eyes remain on Lana across the way, who was talking with another boy. The dark-haired teen stood rather close to her. “It looks like it isn’t just me you have to worry about with Lana.”
Whitney turned quickly and his eyes narrowed. “I want that necklace,” Whitney ground out before stalking off for another confrontation.
Clark watched Whitney’s departing ass – why was it that all the sexy ones were pricks? – and then watched Whitney speak threateningly with the teen that’d been hitting on Lana, after Lana had continued on shopping.
“Who was that?” Jonathan Kent asked, joining Clark at his end of the KentCorp booth.
“Whitney Fordman,” Clark replied, subtly adjusting himself.
“Billy Fordman’s son?” Jonathan rubbed his jaw. “I played ball myself with Whitney’s old man, back in high school. Good arm.”
“Whitney’s quarterback for the Crows,” Clark said. “He’s kind of a jerk.”
Jonathan smiled good-naturedly. “I take it you two aren’t friends.”
“I’m friends with his girlfriend,” Clark said.
“Ah.” Jonathan nodded sagely. “Nothing comes between two men faster than a woman, especially if she’s a looker.”
Clark laughed. “Lana’s okay, but obviously not my type. She lives next door to us, you know.”
“Nell Potter’s niece?” Jonathan glanced towards Martha, who was speaking with someone at the other end of the booth, and lowered his voice. “Best that Lana’s not your type, then. I dated Nell in high school.”
“And she’s our neighbor?” Clark whistled. “You must like sleeping on the couch.”
“Martha trusts me.” Jonathan winked at Clark. “But a little jealousy is good for a relationship.”
“Please don’t tell me any more,” Clark begged, making a face.
Jonathan laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Just you wait. Someone will come along and claim your heart, then you’ll learn the benefits of possessiveness.”
The late afternoon sun bathed everything in a golden light, including Clark as he sat on the edge of the hayloft window. The sun felt pleasant on his bare arms and face, the crisp October air keeping him cool. His physics textbook was open on his lap, but he was distracted watching Whitney and Lana make out on Lana’s front porch.
Clark could tell Whitney was Lana’s first boyfriend by the way she alternately drew Whitney closer and pushed him away. Fear and lust warred with the first experience of love, hormones battling new, scary feelings. Clark remembered when everything was frightening and new, when he crossed that line between thinking he was gay and knowing it.
“What do you think it’s like to kiss another guy?”
John Thomas had asked, picking up one of the Time magazines strewn across
Clark’s bed. They were working on
a social studies project for school, various magazine pictures cut out carefully
to be pasted on the poster board. “Do
you think it’s gross?”
Clark sat down beside John Thomas, took the magazine,
and flipped through it to the article on the Gay Pride March.
“I don’t know,” he’d said, looking at the pictures of men and
women with their arms around each other. “If
you liked the other person, I guess it would be okay.”
“Want to try it and see?” John Thomas rubbed his hands on his jeans and his glasses
were sliding down his nose.
Clark shrugged, although a fluttery feeling tickled his belly. “Okay.”
John Thomas, with his spiky blond hair, sleepy eyes, and insect collection, had been Clark’s first secret boyfriend. They had made out incessantly whenever they studied in each other’s bedrooms, fear of getting caught by parents adding to the thrill of groping. For three months, Clark had lived in a state of adolescent bliss, completely, totally, and without a doubt in love with John Thomas.
Then, John Thomas had broken up with him and Clark had been devastated. The world had ended and Clark had just wanted to die. He’d thought he’d never survive the heartache, took to writing horrid poetry and suicidal love letters (unsent), and stalked John Thomas for months in Junior High. His parents, while unknowing of the particulars, had found his moody behavior amusing and that despite his being an alien, some things about teenagers didn’t change. Clark had broken a lot of doors that year slamming them.
Clark could laugh now about how seriously nuts he’d acted. Since John Thomas, Clark had made it with other guys and had fallen in and out of love with another steady, closeted boyfriend. Clark was single again, but was getting the urge to find someone who meant more than just a roll in the hay.
Clark heard the sound of the barn door creaking open and rose to his feet. He set his textbook on the desk, crossed the loft to the rail, and looked down to see who was visiting.
Clark’s mouth fell open when his eyes landed on Lex Luthor, standing awkwardly in the middle of the barn clutching a metal strongbox. He was still in those overalls, still shirtless, barefoot, and dirty, and was glancing around nervously.
“Um, hi,” Clark called to him. Lex looked up fast. Instantly, Clark felt those blue eyes pierce down to his soul. A shiver slid along his spine. Woah.
“Hi,” Lex said timidly. He held out the box.
It took Clark a moment to understand, when Lex said nothing more. “Is that for me?”
Lex nodded. The sunlight coming in through the hayloft window cast across the top of his head, making the tuft of hair a flaming orange in color.
Clark felt naked once again under Lex’s intense gaze, as he came downstairs. He stopped in front of Lex, and close up, Clark could see no shaving stubble on Lex’s dirty scalp. Standing a half-head shorter than Clark, Clark noted Lex was strong but not brawny, as he’d appeared last night while rescuing Clark. He was kind of smelly, though.
“What is it?” Clark asked finally, accepting the strongbox. It was the size of a shoebox with a standard key lock.
“Yours.” Lex tucked his hands in the open sides of his overalls. The denim bulged where his hand moved over his belly. Clark wondered if Lex was wearing any underwear.
Face heating at the thought, Clark busied with the box. A dirty, bald ghost’s choice of underwear shouldn’t be flustering, but was for some reason.
Clark took a quick, control-seeking breath and opened the box. Immediately, he staggered, nausea and dizziness rolling over him. Inside the box was Lana’s necklace.
Lex’s fast hands prevented Clark from dropping the box. The lid closed as Lex took it from him, and Clark instantly felt normal again.
Lex’s eyes had widened with worry. He held the box close to his chest. “I’m okay,” Clark assured him. He really hadn’t liked what just happened, but it verified the necklace theory. He reached out for the box again.
Lex passed it back hesitantly. Clark didn’t open it this time. “Thanks,” he said.
Lex nodded, watching him carefully. Clark tucked the box under an arm and gestured towards the loft. “Do you want to come up?”
Lex looked towards the loft, then back at Clark and shoved his hands in his overalls. “No,” he said, shuffling backwards and looking shy suddenly. “Bye.”
He turned on his bare heel and hurried out of the barn.
“Bye,” Clark called after him. The barn door squeaked as it was pulled shut.
Clark stared at the door a minute, and then looked at the strongbox. He cracked it open and immediately shut it when he felt sick. Lana’s necklace was definitely the culprit in his weakness last night. But why?
“Clark! Dinner!” Clark heard Martha call from outside.
Clark jogged upstairs and put the box on his desk. He’d have to figure out the mystery later.
“Hey, Lana.” Clark bent and pecked her on the cheek before he slid into his seat in History class Monday morning. “Congratulations on being crowned Homecoming Queen.”
“Thank you,” Lana said brightly. “I didn’t see you at the dance on Friday.”
“I was tied up,” Clark said with a straight face. “I’m sure you looked great, though.”
“You’ll never know, will you?” Lana teased.
“True,” Clark conceded with a lie. He shifted in his desk, long legs stretched into the aisle. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something. Whitney was wearing a necklace the other day. He said it was yours?”
“Yes. It’s my good luck charm,” Lana said. “It’s made from a piece of the meteor that killed my parents.”
“Oh.” Well, that was morbid. Clark didn’t know what to say.
“I know, some people find it weird,” Lana said, “but I like to think my parents died for a reason and the meteor rock reminds me of that.”
“Makes sense.” In a really, really disturbed way, but Clark refrained from telling her that.
“Do you think so?” Lana was nearly gushing. She reached cross the aisle and squeezed his arm. “Not too many understand.”
The bell rang, Mr. Price entered the room, and Lana retracted her hand. “Good morning, everyone. I hope you had a pleasant Homecoming.”
The students settled down. As class began, Clark had the uncomfortable sensation of eyes boring into the back of his head. He glanced over his shoulder. The teen that had been hitting on Lana at the Market was glaring darkly at Clark.
“Who’s the kid in the back with the leather coat?” Clark whispered to Lana, as Mr. Price told them to open their textbooks.
Lana glanced back and replied, “That’s Greg Arkin. I’m tutoring him in English. Why?”
“Curious.” Clark shrugged her off and paid attention to the lesson.
The Varsity football team was practicing after school. Clark watched out the window of the Torch office, smiling evilly.
“Now that’s an unholy grin,” Chloe said as she walked into the converted classroom. She looked quirky in her flowered shirt and red bucket hat. “What did you do and should I take pictures?”
“No pictures.” Clark’s eyes twinkled. “But you might want to bone up on your plant lingo, particularly the rash-causing kind.”
Chloe grinned slyly. “Remind me never to get on your bad side.”
Clark gestured at the computer before turning back to the window. “There’s your article on Homecoming.”
“Great.” Chloe dropped her school bag on the floor and sat down in front of the terminal. She scanned the screen. Her eyes widened slightly and she whistled. “Wow. Kent, you don’t pull punches. Principal Kwan will flip when he reads this. He’s going to want the scarecrow’s name.”
“You’re looking at him.”
A brief, shocked silence filled the room. “God, are you okay? Were you hurt? What happened?” Chloe said.
“I’m fine.” Clark turned around and leaned against the windowsill. “Whitney got the drop on me and the rest you read about in the article. You’ll never guess who rescued me, though.”
Chloe’s jaw dropped. “The ghost? Really?”
“Really. And he’s not a ghost,” Clark said. “He’s just a guy in overalls in need of a shower.”
“Did he talk to you? What did he say? What happened to him? Where does he live? Why hasn’t he come forth and told anyone he’s alive?” Chloe said in a rush, scrambling for her notepad and pen.
Clark laughed at her journalistic excitement. He adored her already. They were going to be great friends. “Calm down, Chloe. He didn’t say much of anything, other than confirming his name is Lex.”
“It’s still so cool,” Chloe said. “Do you think we can find him and get an interview? Lex Luthor Returns From Grave. The Daily Planet would jump for such a story.”
“If I see him again, I’ll ask. But we’re not going to bother him if he says no.” Clark gave her an uncompromising look, feeling oddly protective of Lex. “He probably has his reasons for not coming forward.”
Chloe pouted, but Clark wasn’t going to budge. “Fine,” she agreed with an exaggerated sigh. “But only because you wrote me this.” She tapped the computer monitor with her finger. “The school is going to go ape when the next issue comes out.”
“One can hope,” Clark said with a quirky smile.
“Whatever happened with Jeremy Creek?” Chloe asked. “You mention him in the article as a past scarecrow victim, but don’t connect him to the electrocuted jocks.”
“He doesn’t remember hurting them.” Clark filled her in on the events of Friday night with a lot of modification, and she squealed when he was finished.
“I was right! Another verified story for the Wall of Weird! The meteorites strike again!” Chloe exclaimed. “Oh, and I’m glad you didn’t get fried.”
Clark rolled his eyes. “Thanks. And we don’t know for sure that the meteorites had anything to do with Jeremy’s former powers,” he said, bringing her down to reality. “Something else could have caused it or it could have been a natural ability.”
“Puncture my balloon, why don’t you?” Chloe wasn’t offended, however. “Your theories are sound, but my money’s on the space rocks.”
“Tell you what, I’ll investigate these ‘space rocks’ and determine the validity of your hypothesis.”
“‘Determine the validity of my hypothesis?’” Chloe coughed, “Nerd,” and then smiled innocently.
“Where can I find a large cache of the meteorites?” Clark said, scowling playfully at her taunt.
“Creekside Foundry,” she said. “It closed down in the seventies and the farmers around there used the empty building as a dumping ground. It’s also a hot place to park, or so people tell me.”
“Got it.” Clark glanced over his shoulder and spotted several football players with their hands down their pants. He grinned and pushed off the windowsill. “I’m gone. See you tomorrow.”
Clark saw Lana with a group of cheerleaders and he returned her wave of greeting as he headed out of the school. He reminded himself to return her necklace later tonight. He was going to claim he’d found it; he had some pride and she’d learn with everyone else about the scarecrow incident when the paper came out Friday. Whitney would be in enough trouble with her for ‘losing’ it, as it was.
Clark said hello to a few classmates on his way to the student parking lot. He thought he saw Greg Arkin glaring at him from several car rows over, but when Clark looked again, no one was there. Shrugging it off, Clark got in his pickup and drove out to the foundry.
Creekside Foundry was a dilapidated building off Creekside Drive, near the river. The windows were broken, the corrugated steel walls covered in graffiti, and empty beer bottles were strewn in the gravel parking area. Clark felt queasy as he stopped the truck outside the door to the building. He could see dark green and black chunks of heat-polished rock scattered around the building, sharp edges catching the afternoon sun.
Clark swallowed thickly and climbed out of the truck. The nausea worsened and the rocks close by glowed incandescent green. He took a step forward and had to grab onto the side mirror of the truck as dizziness overwhelmed him. He glanced down and saw one of the glowing rocks an inch from his shoe.
Gearing himself, he clutched the side mirror as he crouched. His hand hovered above the glowing rock and he watched in horror as his veins bulged and crawled under his skin. He drew back sharply, pulled himself to his feet, and struggled to get back into the truck. Breathing heavily, he started the engine and got the heck out of there.
By the time he reached the end of the gravel driveway to the foundry, Clark was fine. His lips thinned in a tight line. He didn’t like this one bit. He had to tell his parents about the meteorites and their effect on him. He wanted to know why.
Clark parked in the driveway at home, thinking about using Lana’s necklace to demonstrate for his parents. He saw Whitney’s truck at Lana’s and snickered as he headed into the barn. Making out would be put on hold for a while between those two. He hoped–
Someone slammed into Clark from behind like a ton of bricks, sending him sprawling on the floor in surprise. He was pinned by a heavy weight on his back. “Lana’s mine, Kent,” was hissed in his ear.
Clark shoved up with all his strength, dislodging his attacker. Scrambling to his feet, he spun around, prepared to fight.
No one was behind him.
Clark heard malicious laughter coming from above. He looked up and his jaw dropped in shock. Greg Arkin was on the ceiling, a sneer twisting his face. “Arkin?”
“You think you can have her?” Greg said darkly. “I saw you kiss her at school. You think you can move in on my territory?”
“Lana is Whitney’s girl,” Clark said to the teen on the ceiling. First lightning boy and now this? Where did his parents move him to, the Twilight Zone?
So questioned the space alien in the horse barn. Right.
“She’s not Whitney’s! She’s mine!” Greg exclaimed, scuttling on the pitched ceiling of the barn like a spider. “And you can’t have her either!”
Clark threw up his hands as Greg launched at Clark. Clark felt like a speeding car had hit him again when Greg collided with him, and they crashed to the floor.
Clark grabbed Greg’s wrists, rolling them so he could pin Greg with his body. Greg bent his knees, planted his feet in Clark’s sides, and shoved hard with his legs. Clark flew backwards, smashing through a wood support beam. He landed in a heap on the ground all the way across the barn.
Clark shook off the slight pain and large amount of surprise. Greg was strong. Clark started to stand and was promptly tackled again. He heard a grunt as he elbowed Greg. Greg fisted his hair and slammed his face into the floor. The concrete broke from the force.
“She’s mine,” Greg hissed again, and then Clark couldn’t hear anything as his world was engulfed in a filmy, fibrous white and green substance.
Nausea struck instantly and Clark struggled weakly, but his hands were stuck to the ground. It felt like mesh covering the backs of them and his skin crawled. Greg shifted off his back, but it didn’t matter because Clark couldn’t move at all. He broke out in a sweat, gorge rising in this throat.
Clark wiggled and squirmed sluggishly against whatever substance kept him captive. He felt sick, like with the meteorites. It hurt to breathe.
Something touched Clark’s face and he froze in panic, but then the fibrous mesh was torn away. He sucked in a ragged gulp of fresh air, as more of the stuff was pulled apart. His hands were freed. He felt a light pressure against his back, sliding downward, and was able to move again.
Clark curled his knees under him and pushed up. The sickness dulled to a weak throbbing. He blinked away the fuzziness in his vision and looked for his rescuer.
“You’re clean,” Clark blurted and his cheeks heated at his rudeness. Lex was clean, though, and his skin was the color of fresh buttermilk with a smattering of faint freckles across his cheeks and nose.
His face was healthily rounded at the edges, Clark noticed, and his brows were a reddish-blonde. The silly tuft of hair curled softly on his head. Those striking blue eyes stared openly with worry at Clark. He’d changed his clothes, too, and wore faded blue coveralls, though his feet were still bare.
Lex folded the pocketknife in his hands and tucked it into the breast pocket of his coveralls. He zipped the pocket shut. “Mom says, ‘The only welcome visitor is a well-groomed one,’” he quoted in a quiet baritone. “You okay?”
“I am now, thanks to you,” Clark said, which was horribly cheesy. He blamed the aftereffects of the fibrous stuff – it looked like spider webbing. Greg glued him down with webbing?
Oh crap, Greg!
“I have to go.” Clark stood uneasily, but once he stepped away from the webbing on the floor, he felt better. “Lana may be in trouble.”
“Yeah, Lana Lang. She’s a friend of mine.” Clark looked at Lex. The corners of Lex’s mouth were drawn down, and it was Friday night again, only this time Lex had come over to see him specifically and he had spiffed up to do so.
Clark didn’t want to leave all of a sudden, but he had to, because Lana could be in danger. “I have to go.”
“I’ll help,” Lex said and strode for the door.
Clark withheld a protest, despite the possible need to hurry. Whitney’s truck was still parked at Lana’s, so maybe she was there.
Clark and Lex cut between the properties and walked up to the front door of the white two-story home. Lex pressed the doorbell and stood inches from the screen door. Clark shifted nervously, a bad feeling tingling at the back of his neck. He pressed the doorbell again, cupped his hands against the glass of the front window, and tried to peer through the crack in the gauzy white curtains.
“Oh, no!” Clark saw the same webbing he’d been covered with formed over something on the floor. He bumped Lex out of the way, opened the screen, found the front door unlocked, and rushed inside.
“Give me your knife,” Clark said. He felt a little ill as he knelt by the webbed figure, but not badly. He took Lex’s proffered knife. “Get the face.”
Lex crouched on the other side of the body and peeled off the white-green webbing as told. It was Whitney, who gulped large breaths of air after his mouth was uncovered. Clark slit the webbing covering Whitney’s body without touching it with his skin. The sharp knife cut the fibrous substance cleanly.
“Lana,” Whiney said raggedly, fighting free of the cut webbing. “Greg Arkin has Lana. He shot this crap at me and took her.”
“Is Greg Arkin an arachnid?” Lex said, rubbing strands of webbing between his fingers, a thoughtful furrow between his brows.
Whitney stared at Lex. “Who the hell are you?”
Lex flinched at Whitney’s harsh tone, rising from his crouch and sidling away from him.
“Someone who just helped you,” Clark snapped, pulling Whitney to his feet with more force than necessary. He dropped Whitney’s arm immediately and glowered at him. “Do you have any idea where Arkin might have taken Lana?”
Whitney dragged his hand over his hair, fear and worry evident on his face. “I have no clue. Damn.”
Lex circled around, coming closer to Clark and backing off again with a distrustful eye at Whitney. He looked at Clark and said tentatively, “Aracnis agelenidae have non-sticky, fibrous spinner silk. They mate in autumn and the egg sac is often found attached to the legs of the dead female. They make their funnel webs in houses and always return to the same place.”
“Greg Arkin’s house,” Clark said, deciphering what Lex was saying. “We should try there first.”
“He lives over on Fir Street,” Whitney said, heading for the door. “I’ll drive.”
It was the wrong time to delight in the fact that Whitney was walking funny, but Clark was sometimes petty and he snickered as he hurried after Whitney.
Outside, Clark reached the passenger side door of Whitney’s pickup and turned to tell Lex to stay put, only Lex was gone. Clark looked around quickly, but didn’t see him anywhere. He’d disappeared. Again.
Maybe he was a ghost.
Clark wasn’t going to worry about it now. He climbed in Whitney’s truck. He had no idea which house on Fir Street was Greg’s, so running wasn’t an option. Whitney spun out of Lana’s driveway at a reckless speed. They made good time, skidding to a stop in front of an average, older home in need of a paint job.
“If they’re here, you get Lana and get out. I’ll take care of Greg,” Clark told Whitney before getting out of the truck.
Clark put on a little speed, running up on the porch before Whitney and peering through the front window. The window was nearly steamed over, beads of sweat on the inside of the glass. Clark could see webbing in the corners of the living room.
“They may be here,” Clark said.
Whitney checked the door and tried ramming it with his shoulder. “Locked.”
“Let’s go around back.” Clark led the way again, getting to the back door first. He forced the lock and pushed the door open.
The two crept into the sweltering kitchen. The buzz of flies was as strong as the stench of rot. Clark saw what might have been the family cat trapped in a silken cocoon in the kitchen doorway.
The living room, as Clark had seen from the window, was hot and dark with funnel webs in the corners. A set of stairs led up and another doorway opened into a dining room beside it. Both were empty save for flies and unidentifiable forms trapped in the webbing.
Clark heard a bump upstairs and he gestured for Whitney to duck around the corner of the dining room. “Greg!” Clark called loudly, when Whitney was out of sight. “Come downstairs. I know you’re here.”
Clark waited anxiously. He fisted his hands, realizing that he still held Lex’s pocketknife. He tucked it in his pocket. Another thump drew Clark’s head up sharply. “Greg! I’ve come for Lana. She doesn’t want to be with you.”
“You’re wrong. She’s mine.”
The hissed words were the only warning Clark got. He dove out of the way as webbing shot from Greg’s mouth. Greg scuttled fast across the ceiling, spitting webbing at Clark again.
Clark rolled, ending up in the living room as planned. He scrambled forward on his hands and knees further into the room. He snatched a flower vase off an end table, flipped over, and lobbed it unerringly at Greg. Clark saw Whitney dart upstairs as the vase shattered against Greg’s chest. Shards of colorful glass rained down in the living room.
With a high-pitched screech, Greg dropped freefall from the ceiling right towards Clark. Clark curled his legs and kicked. His feet thudded against Greg’s stomach and propelled him halfway across the room. Greg twisted mid-air and landed on his feet in a crouch.
Clark stood quickly, set his jaw, and charged Greg like a linebacker. Greg leapt upwards at the last moment, attaching to the ceiling again. He shot webbing at Clark’s legs, nearly tripping him up.
Queasiness hit, but not strongly. Clark’s clothing protected him from the sickening effect of the webbing. He grabbed Lex’s pocketknife and sliced the fibrous substance at inhuman speed, freeing his legs. In a blur, he folded and shoved the knife in his pocket, ran towards the couch, and used the arm to launch himself in a high jump.
Greg hadn’t expected the attack, or someone like Clark. Clark grabbed Greg’s ankle and on the way down, twisted in tight circles. They spun like a whirlwind. Clark released Greg abruptly when his feet hit the ground. Greg flew through the air and crashed through the living room wall into the kitchen. Plaster and rubble fell, dust poofing in the air. The kitchen table shattered in splinters as Greg landed on it.
Clark spied Whitney peeking around the corner at the top of the steps with Lana in his arms. Clark looked through the hole in the kitchen. Greg shook his head hard and climbed to his feet with murderous intent in his eyes. Human-quick, Clark ran through the hole, meeting Greg head on.
Clark threw the first punch, snapping Greg’s head back with a sound of flesh hitting flesh. Greg barely staggered. He fisted Clark’s shirt and leapt upward, smashing Clark’s head into the ceiling. More plaster and dust rained onto the kitchen floor.
For the second time in four days, Clark found himself fighting someone who wouldn’t go down. Greg’s strength was equal to Clark’s for unknown reasons. Was Greg another alien, or was he part arachnid, or something else?
Clark wrapped his hands around Greg’s wrists and head-butted him, then fought dirty and kneed him superhard in the groin. Greg yowled and released Clark’s shirt to grab his balls, but Clark had his wrists yet. With a turn of his body, Clark flipped Greg over his shoulder. Greg sailed through the air and crashed into the cabinets before falling onto the floor.
Then, he got up again.
Greg shot more webbing from his mouth and Clark danced out of the way. What was it going to take to stop this kid?
The back door burst open and like out of Clark’s nightmares, a man wearing a full-head gas mask stormed into the kitchen. A large, faded yellow tank was strapped to his back and a long spray wand was held in both black rubber-gloved hands. Circular black eyes stared over the filter mouthpiece at Greg. If it weren’t for the bare feet, Clark would be scared out of his mind.
The gas-masked man hardly paused to aim before pressing the wand trigger. A stream of liquid shot from the nozzle and hit Greg in the legs.
The sound Greg made was ear piercing. He started to leap, but the sprayer followed him. A faintly floral scent permeated the air. Greg crumpled on the ground, twitched wildly, and went still.
The gas-masked man walked over to Greg, sprayed him one more time, crouched and shook him with a rubber-gloved hand. Greg didn’t respond. Pushing up the gas mask, Lex Luthor looked at Clark. “He’s out.”
Thank goodness, Clark thought, slumping in relief. Gratitude and a strange sense of vulnerability prompted his next words. “That’s the third time you’ve rescued me.”
Lex glanced away shyly, and shrugged. “We should call an ambulance.”
“He’s not dead though, right?” Clark asked, moving to crouch beside Greg on the opposite side. He put his fingers against Greg’s neck, finding a slow but steady pulse.
“He will be all right,” Lex said. “The ratio of pyrethrin to water is non-fatal to humans, if treated.”
Clark rubbed his fingers together, slick from the spray on Greg. “What is this stuff?”
Lex looked at him guilelessly and answered with all seriousness, “Bugspray.”
Greg Arkin had quietly been transferred to an unknown medical facility after his blood test results were recorded as anomalous in Greg’s file. Clark jotted down the lab results, and then exited the (illegally hacked) Smallville Medical Center’s mainframe computer. The lab results didn’t tell Clark if it had been the meteorites or a natural mutanegenic that had caused Greg’s arachnid-like capabilities. Chloe’s bet would be on the former, but Clark would wait until he had more evidence.
“Hello?” Clark heard the barn door squeak and the call, and he switched off his monitor before rising. Crossing to the loft railing, he looked down at his visitor.
“Fordman,” Clark greeted flatly.
Whitney stood in the doorway, looking unhappy. “May I come in?”
Clark shrugged and moved away from the rail. He leaned against his desk, waiting as Whitney’s footsteps sounded on the stairs. Clark hid his smirk when he saw Whitney still walked funny.
Whitney shoved his hands in the pockets of his letter jacket and glanced around the loft. “This your room?”
“Yes,” Clark replied shortly. He stared at Whitney with unconcealed contempt.
“I just wanted to say thanks for helping rescue Lana,” Whitney said uncomfortably.
“How is she?” Clark asked.
“Okay. Still a little scared,” Whitney said. He gave Clark an unfriendly look. “Relieved when I told her you weren’t hurt.”
“Good. I’m happy she’s all right.”
“I’m glad you’re happy. Now, stay away from her.”
Clark rolled his eyes. “That’s not going to happen.”
“She’s my girlfriend, Kent,” Whitney said, taking his clenched hands from his pockets.
“And she’s my friend,” Clark stated, not shifting from his casual lean. “I’m going to see her and talk to her whenever I want, no matter how many cornfields you string me up in.”
Whitney had the grace to look slightly ashamed.
Clark sighed in a put-upon manner and decided it just wasn’t worth it. He’d had his revenge and he didn’t want to put Lana in the middle of another possessive fight, not after Greg. “Listen,” he said. “I’m not interested in Lana.”
“Yeah, right,” Whitney scoffed.
“I’m going to tell you this once and if you repeat it to anyone, you’ll find I let you off easy with this Friday’s Torch article,” Clark said with a hard stare. “I’m gay.”
Whitney didn’t appear to believe him. “Gay.”
“You heard me.” Clark twisted and grabbed the strongbox off the desk behind him. He took a deep breath, clenched his jaw, and opened it. Forcefully ignoring the sickness he felt, he grabbed Lana’s necklace by the chain and tossed it at Whitney. The moment it was away from him, he felt relieved. “There’s Lana’s necklace. You know where the door is.”
Whitney caught the jewelry, glanced at it, and stuck it in his pocket. He left without another word.