Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Attachment Disorder. Traumatic Brain Injury. Cold Temperature Exposure. Mild to Severe Hypothermia with Acute Brain Damage.
Clark Kent rubbed his eyes, tired from the sheer amount of information he�d read. It was Saturday, and he�d spent most of it in front of the computer researching. The file folder on Lex Luthor was filled with saved pages regarding physiological and psychological diagnoses, all possible outcomes of Lex having been in the meteorite shower and abandoned at age nine.
But Clark didn�t know what, exactly, was wrong with Lex, if anything at all. Shyness wasn�t a personality disorder, and neither was blunt honesty. And geniuses were supposed to be a bit quirky. Still, Clark wasn�t convinced, hence: research.
At Pete Ross�s voice, Clark closed the windows and password locked the computer with a few clicks of his mouse. �Hey, Pete. I�m up here.�
More than one set of footsteps sounded on the stairs, and Clark pivoted on his desk chair as both Pete and Chloe Sullivan came into view, wearing open winter coats. �So this is where rich boys sleep � in a barn,� Pete said, looking around interestedly. �Obviously, I�m not missing much being poor.�
�Like heat.� Chloe rubbed her arms. �Brr. It�s freezing in here, Clark.�
�It feels fine to me,� Clark said, rising from his seat. The heat was on, temperature set in the mid-sixties in deference to his computer, and he kept the hayloft window closed except when he slept.
�You must be part sasquatch,� Pete said, giving Clark the once-over. �You�re big enough.�
�I seem tall because you�re so short.� Clark smirked.
Pete cupped his crotch. �I�ve got the size where it counts.�
Clark snorted. �It only looks longer since you have midget legs.�
Chloe rolled her eyes. �If you two are finished, I�d like to get to the party while I�m still perky.�
Clark and Pete both looked at her chest. Chloe glared and crossed her arms. �Perky from the coffee I drank. Perverts.�
�No denying that,� Pete said.
Chloe swatted half-heartedly at him and he danced out of reach. Clark put on his coat and pocketed his cell phone.
�Where is this party, anyway?� he asked, as they traipsed downstairs and out of the barn.
�Woods Lake,� Chloe answered.
�It�s outside?� Clark�s breath puffed visibly in the December night air.
Chloe nodded. �That�s what I love about parties. People will gather anywhere as long as there�s beer and the slightest chance of hooking up. Even outside, when it�s twenty thousand degrees below zero.�
�No worries, bro.� Pete clapped Clark�s shoulder. �It�ll feel like you never left your room.�
It was hell being a closeted gay at a high school party. Clark sipped his longneck and smiled at the insipid girls openly hitting on him. Seven female upperclassmen, cheerleader friends of Lana�s, flocked around him, and while he didn�t mind the attention, it was only because he was new blood. They�d lose interest soon enough when he didn�t ask for, or accept, any dates.
Even if he weren�t gay, none of the ladies around him were his type. He liked smart people with a sense of humor, both as friends and potential dates. People like Chloe and Pete, or Lana, who had a sharp mind under her bouncy cheerleader exterior.
�I heard that Mr. Milton and Ms. Grimm are getting it on,� Amy said.
�Ew, no way.� Kayla made a face. The other girls shuddered.
�It�s true,� Amy said. �They apparently do it in the second floor teacher�s lounge on the couch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.�
Clark glanced past Amy�s shoulder as the girls babbled on. Cars and pickup trucks parked along Woods Lake, headlights providing light. A bonfire further illuminated the rocky snow-packed shore. The lake was in the middle of Schuster Woods, not too far from the KentCorp plant. The water had frozen in the December cold. Someone had hooked up a loud stereo in the back of a pickup, blaring KROW, the local radio station. Many other truck beds held open coolers containing beer and sodas. With surprising thoughtfulness, the empties were thrown in rusty trash barrels around the lake.
Whitney Fordman and his buddies were throwing a football around. Knots of friends gathered close together in the cold. A few of the car and truck windows were fogged. One moderately good-looking guy was leaning against a tailgate, drinking beer and letting people come to him rather than looking to score.
Pete had his own groupies and was laughing along with them near the bonfire. Chloe sat on the hood of her little red car, looking not quite miserable alone. Clark was about to excuse himself to join Chloe when one of the jocks approached her. The incredulous expression on her face made Clark wish he could hear their conversation. Chloe didn�t care for the brainless athletic-types, either.
Clark was startled to attention by the impact of a football against his chest. He caught it reflexively, not fumbling the ball or his beer. The ladies were impressed. Clark was annoyed.
�Yo, Kent!� Whitney, of course, hoping to cause Clark embarrassment. Since Clark hadn�t named names, the entire football team had been snubbed for a solid month after Clark�s Torch article on the Scarecrow incident. Peer punishment was the worst, and Clark had reveled in his revenge.
Retaliation on Clark, however, was practically non-existent, save for little things like this. Mainly, the jocks went one way and Clark the other, ignoring each other.
�Any day, Grandma,� Whitney called, earning loud chuckles from his friends.
Clark changed his grip on the football, drew his arm back with obvious laziness, and threw a perfect spiral into Whitney�s chest. Whitney caught the ball, staggering back a few steps at impact. Whitney hid his surprise behind a glare. Clark smirked and lifted his beer in mocking toast.
�That was a great throw,� Liz gushed, clutching at Clark�s right arm. �Why don�t you play football?�
�He�s too tall for football. I bet you play basketball,� Amber said before Clark could reply. She looked him over from head to toe, pausing when she saw his feet and then briefly eyeing his crotch. �What size shoe do you wear, anyway?�
Clark�s lips twitched as he suppressed a smile. �Fourteen,� he answered. He saw that Chloe was alone again. �And I don�t play sports.�
�Not any?� Madison said almost forlornly.
�No� unless you count sex as a sport,� Clark said with a wink. He made to leave, pausing to whisper in Amber�s ear, �Yes, the rumors about shoe size are true.�
Flirting was an art form, one Clark had mastered in order to get what he wanted, whether it was information for a story, a date with a hot guy, or to deflect suspicion that he was gay. The last was most important.
Chloe�s brows arched questioningly, looking between Clark and the giggling gaggle of girls as he joined her. �I can feel my brain cells diminish just by listening to them.�
�They�re not so bad.� Clark cringed at a particularly high-pitched squeal. Chloe smirked. Clark scowled playfully. �Hey, I saw you talking with one of the Brain Trusts, too.�
�You mean Sean Kelvin,� Chloe said. They both glanced at Sean, who was playing football with Whitney and his friends close to the lake. �He asked me out.�
�And he walked away alive?� Clark teased, tossing his empty beer bottle in a trash barrel.
�I gave him my phone number.�
Clark looked at her.
�What? It�s not like guys are banging on the Torch door to ask me out,� Chloe said defensively. �Besides, I already know he won�t call. He was just looking to hook up with someone tonight, like every other guy here.�
Clark caught sight of the lone, good-looking male leaning against the back of a truck and felt a stir of interest. �You�re probably right.�
�I know I am.� Chloe hopped off the back of her car. �Go get Pete. The taxi�s leaving.�
�I�ll let him know, but I think I�m going to stick around,� Clark said, checking for the condoms he�d pocketed before the party.
�Why am I not surprised?� Chloe said dryly, as the cheerleaders giggled again.
Clark shot her a charming grin and stepped off. After a short word with Pete, he ambled over to the tall, preppy-type guy by the truck and reached in the cooler for a beer.
Although he was nervous, Clark was also horny and couldn�t resist a hot ass. In Noblesville, he�d known who was gay by word of mouth, but Smallville was virgin territory for him and he needed to be careful. He did not want to out himself.
�Nice shoes,� he said casually, twisting off the cap on the longneck. The shoes were simple Nike sneakers. Straight boys would be confused by his comment; gay ones would take it as a come-on.
�Not as nice as those jeans.� The prep boy smiled with perfect teeth. �Gavin Swanson.�
�Clark Kent.� Clark�s gaze swept blatantly over Gavin. He had none of Lex�s stark attractiveness, or his piercing blue eyes.
Perturbed, Clark slammed the door on thoughts of Lex, and tilted his head towards the trees. �Up for a walk?�
Gavin glanced around as he lifted his beer bottle to his lips, took a long, titillating swallow, and then set the beer aside. �You�re on.�
Clark smiled slowly in anticipation. �I�ll follow.�
Gavin nodded and started into the woods, as Clark ambled in the other direction. He needed a moment to gather his thoughts, to make sure he had firm control over his libido. He finished his beer, gaze sweeping the shores of Woods Lake. The other partiers were occupied with their own assignations, leaving Clark free to slip away after a few moments. He glanced over his shoulder as he reached the tree line and saw Chloe�s non-date Sean watching him, but then Sean was distracted when Whitney threw the football.
Clark knew he�d left enough time between when Gavin went into the woods and his own trip to put off suspicion, and he�d entered at a different point, as well. Still, it would be suicide to be outed.
Behind a tree, he took a leak and returned to the party. Grabbing another beer, he circulated once more, making sure Sean saw him, and then slipped away. He made a mental note to find some girl and mack heavily with her when he returned to the party. Amber would probably volunteer enthusiastically.
The Talon was packed on Sunday with hungover students guzzling coffee and not talking too loudly. Gossip of who�d hooked up with whom spread like wildfire between the tables and couches along the walls. New couples smiled sappily at one another over mochas and cappuccinos, while girlfriends comforted each other about disastrous one-night stands.
Clark grinned charmingly came upon the cheerleaders from the night before, grouped at a table. �Hello, everyone.�
�Hi, Clark,� they said almost in unison, with Amber staring moony-eyed at him. Clark caressed her shoulder as he passed and their animated whispers followed him to the coffee bar.
�I�d say �Hi, Clark,� but apparently I missed my cue,� Lana said with a small, teasing smile from across the bar. Clark claimed a stool. �What can I get you?�
�Plain coffee, black,� Clark said. He rested his folded arms on the counter. �I didn�t see you at the party last night.�
�I had to work,� Lana said, pouring coffee in a ceramic cup. The counter against the wall behind the serving bar was lined with coffee makers, cappuccino and espresso machines, all perking away. A swinging door with a round window beside the bar opened and a waitress carried a frappuccino to one of the tables. �Everyone who wasn�t at the lake was here.�
�You didn�t miss much,� Clark said. The table of cheerleaders giggled loudly and his name was clearly said. His lips quirked self-mockingly. �Notwithstanding my gaining a fan club.�
�They�ve been asking me about you. Especially Amber,� Lana said, eyes dancing. �Do you want me to fix you up with her?�
�I hate to say this, but she really doesn�t do it for me,� Clark said, hopefully appearing remorseful.
�Has someone else caught the handsome Mr. Kent�s eye then?� Lana said.
Clark�s vision was filled suddenly with Lex Luthor, only it wasn�t just in his mind. Lex�s face was in the round window of the swinging door. �Lex?�
�Who�s Lex?� Lana said with a nose wrinkle of confusion. �I don�t know any girls named Lex.�
The door opened slightly and Lex scooted into the main room of the Talon behind the bar with Lana. Lana turned and gasped. Lex was wearing a neon green knit hat with a pom-pom on top, heavy-duty canvas coveralls, the kind outdoor construction workers wore in the winter, and bright yellow firefighter boots. He glanced around anxiously and twisted the gloves he held in his hands.
�Clark, I need you,� he said with soft urgency.
�What�s wrong?� Clark said, rising immediately.
�Come with me,� Lex said. Shy eyes flicked to Lana before he focused on his feet.
Clark dug out his wallet and laid a few dollars on the counter. He was peripherally aware that his fan club had gone quiet. �Keep the change, Lana. I�ll see you at school.�
�Bye,� Lana said faintly.
Clark walked around the counter and followed Lex into the back room. They headed for the back door. �Where are we going?�
�My garden.� Lex glanced at Clark, looking upset. �Someone destroyed it. I need your help.�
Clark was immediately incensed on Lex�s behalf. Lex was proud of his garden, and how dare someone damage it in any manner. How would they like it if Clark damaged something of theirs � say, their body?
Clark�s fingernails dug into his palms. �Did you ride your board?�
�I have my truck. I�ll meet you there,� Clark said through a clenched jaw.
Lex nodded. �Okay. Bye.�
Clark reversed course, cutting through the Talon with a dark cloud hovering over his head. Woods Lake was close to KentCorp, and thereby Lex�s garden. Clark suspected strongly that partiers from last night had stumbled upon the garden in their drunken trek through Schuster Woods. When he found out who it had been�
Clark almost crashed into someone exiting the Talon. Pete quick-stepped out of Clark�s path. �Hey, Clark. Where�s the fire?� he said.
�Sorry, Pete,� Clark said shortly. �I�m on my way somewhere.�
�Before you take off, I�d like you to meet Jodi,� Pete said, introducing the cutely plump blonde standing unobtrusively out of the way.
Manners drilled into him from Martha compelled him to smile and be nice. �Hi, Jodi.�
�Hi.� Jodi glanced up beneath her lashes and waved her fingers tentatively, then clasped them in front of her and looked back at the ground.
Her shyness reminded Clark of Lex. His ire returned instantly and he was propelled to move again. �Gotta go. I�ll catch you tomorrow, Pete. Nice meeting you, Jodi.�
The ride out to the KentCorp plant was short. Clark parked the blue Dodge pickup in the empty lot near the back of the factory and jogged across the snow-covered field.
Lex had already arrived and was crouched beside a rose bush. Footprints trampled a path across the garden and it looked like at one point someone had fallen. Most of the garden had been winterized and the herb plants still visible above ground were flattened or coated in ice, especially near the site where the person had fallen.
�Oh, man.� Clark cursed softly, righted a rose cone, and collected a few beer bottles. His urge to smash them against a tree was strong, but instead he placed them off to the side. �I�m sorry about this, Lex. There was a party last night at Woods Lake.�
�It hasn�t rained,� Lex said, not responding to Clark�s explanation. He slid a bare finger alone an ice-covered rose branch. �There shouldn�t be ice.�
�Someone probably poured beer on it.� Or had urinated on the bush, Clark thought darkly. He crouched beside a row of crushed brown-leaved plants and checked the roots as his father had taught him. �I think a few of these are still alive.�
Lex�s forlorn expression twisted Clark�s insides. �I need your help to dig up what I can save and bring them indoors.�
�Where are you going to put them?� Clark said, and he watched Lex�s shoulders slump even more.
�I don't know. I suppose I can make a trough for them,� Lex said slowly, thinking it up as he spoke. �It�ll take time. I have to draw a plan, find the materials, and then build it.�
�Maybe we can transplant them to my parents� greenhouse instead,� Clark suggested. �I�m sure they won�t mind.�
�Do you mean it?� Lex looked as though Clark had handed him the moon.
Happiness, protectiveness, affection and pride jumbled together inside Clark at Lex�s reaction for offering something as simple as garden space. �Of course,� Clark said somewhat gruffly. �I�ll bring the truck over and we�ll load her up.�
The tarp Clark kept in the bed of his truck made a dirt holder after bunching up the sides. Together, they dug up herb plants and rose bushes that had been damaged. Clark helped Lex re-winterize the rest of the garden, packing dirt around healthy but exposed plants and re-wrapping and re-covering bushes.
Clark idled near the side door of the KentCorp plant, waiting for Lex to store the shovel and spade inside. Lex had wanted to ride his board to Clark�s, but Clark had told him it was unnecessary since they were going to the same place.
It dawned on Clark, as he saw Lex�s expressive face through the truck window, that a �ghost� probably didn�t ride in a vehicle often. Lex climbed awkwardly into the cab and sat stiffly on the bench seat.
�Seat belt,� Clark said. Lex gave him a blank look. Clark�s protectiveness rose and he reached past Lex for the seat belt, drew it across, and clicked it into place. �I�ll go slowly.�
Lex�s chin tilted in offense. �I�m not afraid.�
�Sorry,� Clark said. �You look nervous, that�s all.�
�Nervousness is not synonymous with fear,� Lex said, staring resolutely out the windshield. �Dad says Luthors are not afraid. You�re never going to get anywhere with your eyes closed.�
�Okay,� Clark said, feeling even more protective now.
The drive to the Kent farm was made in silence. Lex clung to the door handle, his other gloved hand curled in a fist at his side. His eyes remained open the entire trip.
If the ride was harrowing for Lex, the end result was well worth it. Lex stared in gape-mouthed awe, gaze darting back and forth, drinking in the massive size of the Kent greenhouse. He�d removed his hat and gloves, and his red hair stood up in static disarray. �This place is amazing.�
�If you say so.� Clark saw the building every day and they�d had a similar one in Noblesville. It was nothing special to him. �Come on. I�ll show you the empty plots and you can decide what goes where before we move the plants from the truck.�
The greenhouse was warm and the sun shone through the glass ceiling. The rows of flowers, plants, and small trees were in winter stasis, many dirt plots only with name stakes to mark what was planted there. An equation-filled dry erase board had been wheeled in front of a testing plot. Clark�s parents spent the winter months primarily in the annex lab, experimenting and analyzing.
Clark checked the stakes and string markers, locating several unused contiguous plots. They were not marked for testing or planting in the spring. Clark crouched and checked the ground soil with his fingers. The dry surface hid the moist soil beneath. �These four sections should do.�
Lex didn�t respond. Clark glanced up and saw him standing in front of the dry erase board across the rows. He sucked in a sharp, horrified breath when Lex rubbed off the writing with the side of his hand. �Lex, what are you doing?�
�Correcting this,� Lex said, uncapping a blue marker.
Clark hurried over, but didn�t take the marker from Lex. Instead, he watched as Lex wrote awkwardly on the board and prayed his parents had kept the original equation elsewhere.
�What�s going on here?�
Clark�s horror grew at Jonathan�s questioning voice and he turned quickly. �Dad, hi. Were you in the lab? Any successes today?�
�Some.� Jonathan came up beside Clark and clamped a hand on his shoulder. �Now, who is this and what is he doing to my board?�
�Um, this is Lex.�
�Luthor?� Jonathan eyed Lex, who was still writing. �He doesn�t look like a ghost.�
�That�s because he�s not,� Clark said. He didn�t wait any longer to grab Lex�s attention. �Uh, Lex?�
�Just a second. I�m almost done.� Lex finished the equation and rubbed his hand over his head as he re-read it. He nodded decisively. �That�s correct.�
Jonathan read the board, eyes widening. �Martha,� he called. �Come take a look at this.�
�What is it?� Martha emerged from the annex behind them. She saw Clark and Lex and started to smile in welcome, but Jonathan distracted her.
�Look at the equation,� Jonathan said, moving closer to the board. �We had it balanced wrong. That�s why we were having skewed results.�
�Are you certain? We checked the equations�oh.� Martha moved in beside Jonathan, her fingertip sliding under Lex�s new symbols and numbers. �Oh my, we really had messed this one up, hadn�t we? Clark, did you fix this?�
�No. That would�ve been Lex,� Clark said, grinning at Lex in compliment and much relief.
�Thank you.� Martha smiled sincerely. �You�ve saved us a lot of wasted work.�
Lex ducked his head bashfully and colored pink.
�Yes, thanks, Lex,� Jonathan said. �Though next time ask before taking it upon yourself to change things.�
�Dad!� Clark couldn�t believe it. Jonathan had praised and chastised Lex in the same breath.
Jonathan held out his hand to Lex. �I suppose I should introduce myself before treating you like my son,� he said with a twitch of the lips, acknowledging Clark�s scolding. �Jonathan Kent.�
Lex appeared uncertain for a moment, looking at Jonathan�s extended hand. Then memory visibly clicked into place and he accepted the handshake tentatively. �Mr. Kent.�
�And I�m Martha,� Martha said, extending her hand as well.
�Mrs. Kent.� Lex smiled shyly at her.
Martha clucked her tongue, holding onto his hand and tilting his chin with the other. �You have ink on your face, honey. Let me get that,� she said, and then licked her thumb and rubbed the side of Lex�s face.
�Mom.� Clark was mortified. First his dad and now her. He was never bringing over a friend again.
�Oh hush, Clark. I doubt Lex wants to walk around with ink on his face,� Martha said.
�We have a bathroom in here,� Clark pointed out. He gave Lex an apologetic glance.
Lex, however, just ducked his chin and said softly, �I don�t mind.�
Martha brimmed with motherly satisfaction. Before she could adopt Lex, Clark changed the subject. �Dad, are you using plots K-four through eight?�
Jonathan looked over his shoulder at row K and shook his head. �Not this year. Why?�
�Someone trampled Lex�s garden and I said he could transplant the surviving plants here,� Clark said. �The plants are in the bed of my truck��
�What? You left them outside in this weather?� Jonathan said. He started for the door at a rapid clip.
Martha gave Clark a chastising look and followed Jonathan hurriedly. �I�ll bring out the cart, Jonathan.�
Clark turned to Lex with a faint smile. �Um, those are my parents, in case you didn�t get that.�
�They�re very nice,� Lex said, staring off in the direction they�d gone. He still had a hint of blue smudged on his temple.
Clark shoved his hands in his pockets to keep from repeating his mom�s action with the ink. �Just wait until they put you to work��
�Clark! Lex! Come and help us!�
Clark grinned and finished his thought. ��You�ll change your mind.�
Lex hadn�t changed his mind about Jonathan and Martha Kent. If anything, he grew more enamored with them as Sunday wore on. In fact, he got on better with them than Clark, overcoming his shyness quickly once they started talking agricultural science. Lex had no problems, either, with relating to Jonathan and Martha on an equal level. There were no awkward pauses or uncomfortable moments. Lex flourished with the elder Kents� interest in his wealth of knowledge, and despite niggling doubts and the internet research, Clark was starting to think there anything wrong with Lex's mental capacity.. Perhaps he was simply socially awkward and wasn�t used to people paying attention to him. He�d said so himself: he was the ghost of Lex Luthor, after all.
Clark tried to involve himself, but it didn�t work. He felt ignored. He was good at math and science, but that didn�t mean he liked it with the same passion as his parents and Lex did. He finally left when he realized he didn�t know who he was more jealous of: Lex, for having Jonathan and Martha�s full attention, or his parents for having all of Lex�s.
Monday dawned cold and bright, and Clark curled sleepily in the sunlight pouring through his open window. His alarm was beeping across the loft, and reluctantly, he rolled out of the hammock to start his day.
A little while later, dressed and ready for school, he carried a box of day old donuts to the greenhouse. Munching on a glazed longjohn, he found his parents and Lex exactly where he�d left them last night.
�Mowing,� Clark said around a mouthful of food. He set the box down and leaned against the stainless steel counter running along the wall of the annex.
Martha and Jonathan didn�t look away from the laptop on the lab table, responding automatically and with scary simultaneity, �Good morning, Clark.�
Lex, on the other hand, not only looked up but also smiled widely. �Hi, Clark.�
Clark�s mouth went dry and it had nothing to do with the stale donut. �Hi, Lex.�
Unlike Clark�s parents ever could do, Lex stopped what he�d been doing and padded barefoot over to Clark. Lex peered inside the open box of donuts. �May I have one, please?�
�That�s why they�re there,� Clark said.
Lex paused in taking one and looked questioningly at Clark. �Does that mean yes?�
�Yes,� Clark replied, ignoring the warmth of Lex�s bare skin as he fixed the fallen shoulder strap of Lex�s denim overalls.
Lex chose a chocolate donut and hummed happily as he ate it. �Mrs. Dithers bakes fresh donuts for the factory cafeteria, too.�
Clark glanced at the plain, label-less donut box, but didn�t have to ask how Lex knew who had baked them. Lex seemed to know nearly everyone in Smallville, though hardly anyone knew the �ghost� in return.
Lex sucked his gooey chocolate fingers into his mouth. Clark looked quickly away. �Uh, so what are you guys working on?�
�A computer model of my pesticide,� Lex replied, excitement evident in his voice. �We�ve created hypotheticals of different natural combinations, factoring in both organic and chemical fertilizers and meteorite contamination. Mr. Kent says once the hypotheses have been fully developed in the lab program, we can start the physical experiments.�
�So that means you�ll be around a lot, checking on the experiments.�
�Lex, come and take a look at this,� Jonathan beckoned.
Lex hurried over to Jonathan and Martha�s side without a backwards glance. Clark watched as Lex became absorbed in work, much like Clark�s parents. Clark knew he�d be ignored unless he started and kept up a conversation. Jonathan and Martha weren�t neglectful, only very into agri-science, and it appeared Lex was the same way.
Clark�s goodbye was responded to absently. It was better this way, he decided as he retrieved his backpack for school. Lex behaving like Clark�s parents was a definite turn-off and it would help Clark keep perspective. Despite leaning toward the answer of no, if there was even the tiniest question of Lex's competency, Clark couldn't do anything with him anyway. Not with Clark�s record. His family didn�t need the grief again.
�Hey, Clark,� Chloe greeted as he joined her, Pete, and Jodi on the sidewalk in front of the school. They headed into Smallville High, along with the other thousand students.
�Moo,� Clark responded dryly.
Chloe grinned and Jodi snickered softly. Pete looked confused. �Is that some sort of code?�
�More like social commentary,� Clark said.
He looked past Pete at Jodi and smiled cordially.
�Hi,� Jodi said, and then ducked her chin so the curtain of her hair hid her face.
Chloe nudged Clark none-too-gently. �What, I don�t get a hello?�
�Nope.� Clark grinned disarmingly, pulled a computer CD from his pocket, and held it up. �You do, however, get your story on the library diversionary funds.�
Chloe made a sound of glee and snatched the jewel case from him. �This is much better than any lousy �good morning.��
�Glad you think so.� Clark detached himself from the group to go to his locker. �See you later.�
The warning bell rang overhead. Clark dumped his coat and backpack in his locker, and grabbed his class books. He turned to head to first class and promptly elbowed someone passing by, knocking both their books from their hands.
�Crap, sorry,� Clark said, helping gather the fallen books before they were stepped on. He looked up as he held out the two books that didn�t belong to him and paused momentarily before post-party etiquette kicked in. �Oh, hey, Gavin.�
�Clark.� Gavin Swanson didn�t appear entirely comfortable having run into Clark, either.
Clark cheered up immediately. Gavin perceived Saturday as a one-night hook up, too. He grinned bemusedly.
Gavin caught on and a corner of his mouth curled. �Yeah.� There�d be no more awkwardness between them.
�Yeah,� Clark echoed. �Later.�
Gavin continued on his way and Clark joined the throng of students heading in the opposite direction. He slid into his seat in history class and opened his notebook to a blank page. He began writing an editorial on sex and the high school party.
A blur of pink grabbed his attention and he looked up as Lana took her seat beside him.
�You�re big news, Clark,� Lana said before Clark could say hello. �Everyone is talking about you going off with that guy.�
�What?� Clark stared at her in panic. Someone had seen him and Gavin. People knew he was gay.
�Who was he?� Lana asked in a hushed tone. �I don�t think I�ve ever seen him before and I would�ve remembered that neon green hat.�
�Oh, Lex. You mean Lex.� Clark slumped in relief. He hadn�t been outed. �Lex is a friend of mine.�
�He must be a good friend,� Lana commented as the bell rang. �You left the instant he asked.�
�Good morning, everyone.� Mr. Price shut the door as he entered the classroom. �I hope you all had a pleasant weekend.�
With that, classes began and dragged all morning. Fifth period finally rolled around and Clark flopped into a chair in the Torch office. Pete had his feet up on a desk and Chloe was focused on her computer while they ate lunch. Clark ripped open the wrapper of his candy bar and took a large bite.
�Very nutritious lunch, Clark,� Pete commented before chomping into his own candy bar.
�It�s got all four major food groups: milk, sugar, nuts, and butylated hydroxyanisole.�
�Oh my god,� Chloe said.
�It�s not that bad,� Clark said. �Most high schoolers eat poorly at lunch. There�ve been studies.�
�No.� Chloe pointed at the computer monitor. �Jenna Barnum is dead.�
�What?� Pete jumped up and rounded the computer terminal desks to peer over her shoulder. �We just saw her Saturday night.�
�It doesn�t take that long to kill someone.�
�What happened?� Clark asked, leaning far over to read the email on Chloe�s screen.
�Jenna was frozen to death,� Chloe said, trying to sound unaffected.
�Hypothermia?� Pete said.
�She died in the bathroom,� Chloe said. �Chad at the morgue always forwards me the bizarre deaths for the Wall of Weird. It�s never been someone I knew before.�
�It says here that she was literally frozen solid,� Clark read. �They lifted some finger prints and are running them through AFIS.�
�AFIS only works if the perp is in the system already.� Pete scrubbed a hand over his head. �Man, this bites. Jenna was a great girl.�
�Pete, I need you to put together a memorial, like the one you did for Coach Walt,� Chloe said, wiping her eyes. �I�m meeting Sean Kelvin here tonight.� She smiled with wobbly humor at Clark. �Surprise, he called. He also used to be Jenna�s boyfriend. I should be able to get more personal information about Jenna from him.�
�Are you sure you shouldn�t wait until an announcement is made?� Clark said.
�News is still news, even when it hurts.�
Clark understood, though he didn�t fully agree. He had limits as to what he would and wouldn�t present to the public in terms of a story. A memorial article was appropriate, but being first to announce Jenna�s death was more like sensationalism.
He wasn�t the editor of the Torch, though. �Be careful, Chloe. There�s no telling how Sean will react.�
�I will,� Chloe promised. �But more than likely, he�ll just freeze me out.�
Clark paused at the top of the loft steps and stared in disbelief. Lex was asleep in the hammock. His bare feet poked from the bottom of the blanket covering him, his boots discarded by the couch. The tuft of red hair was in a tangle. Fair eyelashes fanned against Lex�s winter sun-warmed skin, and a faint snore came from between his slackened lips.
Clark walked quietly across the loft and set his backpack on his desk. His parents must have given Lex permission to crash in the loft. Either that, or Lex had taken liberties with Clark�s bed.
The second thought led to other scenarios with Lex in his bed, which came sharp and clear in Clark�s mind. Clark�s groin tightened and he cursed viciously. He pulled the zipper tab on his backpack with more force than usual and it broke right off.
Glowering, he took a seat and unlocked his computer. He glanced at the sleeping man and wished suddenly that Clark wasn't whom he was.. It only made him feel grouchier in the long run.
Clark got down to doing his homework, forcing himself not to look at Lex. It worked. He was so deeply involved in his assignment that he didn�t notice someone had entered the barn until they spoke.
�Clark? Are you in here?�
Clark jumped, dropped his book on the floor, and winced at the noise. Lex shifted on the hammock. Clark went downstairs quickly, not wanting to wake Lex. He was surprised to see Gavin standing in his barn.
�Gavin,� Clark said. �Hey, what�s going on?�
�Not much.� Gavin held out a notebook. �Got your book by mistake this morning and I wanted to return it.�
�Thanks.� Clark took the notebook. �You could�ve returned it to me at school.�
Gavin tucked his hands in his jeans pockets and shrugged. �No big deal. Besides, I wanted to let you know that Hoops Thomson is having a Closet party on Wednesday and I thought you might like to come.�
�A Closet party?� Clark said curiously.
�You�re not the only closeted gay boy in Smallville, you know,� Gavin said with a smirk. �Hoops has a party about once a month with all of us who are not out to the public and we�re always looking for new cock.�
�I bet.� Clark was uncertain. Knowing a handful of gay people was different than going to a gathering of them, even if it was a �Closet party.� �I�ll think about it.�
�Wednesday, seven o�clock. Pansy purple house on Harmon,� Gavin said, undeterred. �Maybe I�ll see you there.�
Clark followed Gavin to the door and watched him walk to his truck. Clark had held that nice ass in his hands Saturday night. He grinned wolfishly.
Aliens needed sexual activity regularly, or so his body told him. The release from orgasm curbed his aggressiveness. And while he could get that from his hand, it wasn�t very effective and usually made him feel frustrated for lack of partner, which didn�t help relieve tension.
Clark kept his control, however, whether with a partner or alone. He leashed his desire to rut wildly and found a slow release instead. An orgasm was an orgasm, no matter how low the level of satisfaction was in attaining it.
Gavin had been a decent lay and moaned prettily as Clark fucked him slowly against a tree. No bruises had been left, except where Clark sucked a hickey on Gavin�s inner thigh after giving him a blowjob. Clark had kept an ear out for others in the woods so they wouldn�t get caught, and his alien libido was satisfied enough by the encounter.
A sound of booted footsteps behind him drew his attention and Clark glanced over his shoulder. Lex joined him in the doorway and stared outside, as Gavin�s truck pulled down the driveway. �Who was that?�
�A friend of mine, Gavin Swanson,� Clark said, concerned about how much of the conversation Lex had overheard.
Lex turned his intense gaze on Clark. �I don�t like him,� he said succinctly.
He left Clark gaping at his back as he strode outside and around the corner towards the greenhouse.
What was that all about?, Clark wondered. He shook his head, closed the door, and returned upstairs. He paged through the notebook in his hands. �Oh crap,� he muttered when he saw that he�d spaced on a major assignment due tomorrow.
He tossed the notebook on the desk, grabbed his cell phone and coat, and headed back downstairs. He knew the book he needed was in his locker. Hopefully, the school would still be open because of basketball and volleyball practice.
�Help! Someone help me!�
A young woman�s scream echoed off the lockers in the empty school halls, and Clark froze in recognition. �Chloe!�
Clark glanced around for witnesses before taking off in a dead run. The darkened halls were a blur as he sped for the Torch office. The basketball and volleyball players were on their way home now, leaving very few students and staff at the school.
The lights were on in the Torch office and Chloe�s coat and purse were there, but she was gone. Chloe screamed again. Clark zipped into the hall. He looked left and right, unsure which way to go, wishing he had some sort of GPS tracking ability in his alien package of tricks.
However, he did have speed on his side. He could search the school in seconds. He chose left, heading for the gym. It was a good choice. He found a soaking wet Chloe almost immediately, trapped in the poolroom. Her calf was caught in ice, the entire pool having frozen solid. Sean Kelvin, pale and menacing, stalked towards her.
�One touch, Chloe, and I�ll be warm again,� Sean said, crouching in front of her. He extended his hand. �It�ll be over before you know it.�
�Get away from her!� Clark�s shout caused Sean and Chloe�s heads to jerk around in surprise.
�Clark!� Chloe exclaimed, as Clark charged Sean at a slightly faster than human speed, tackling him. They skidded across the tiled pool deck away from Chloe.
Kneeling up, Clark punched Sean in the face, feeling an odd prickle in his fist when he connected. He pursed his lips in grim satisfaction as Sean went limp, unconscious.
Clark hurried over to Chloe. �Are you okay?� he asked, checking her over with a quick x-ray.
�I�m fine, now that I�m not about to be Popsicle girl,� Chloe said shakily.
�Turn your head,� Clark directed, shielding Chloe against his shoulder. He leaned forward and punched the ice near her leg. It cracked, allowing Chloe to pull free.
�Wow. Strong arm,� Chloe said as Clark helped her to her feet.
Clark dismissed her with a lie. �You were almost free already. Your struggling had broken the ice.�
��Almost� almost got me dead,� Chloe said. �Sean was about to�wait. Where is he?�
Clark turned and cursed silently. Sean was no longer lying on the floor. He was gone.
�Come on.� Clark took Chloe�s elbow. �Let�s get you home.�
�Clark, I�m soaking wet and freezing,� Chloe said. �I�m not going anywhere until I change into dry clothes. I have sweats in my gym locker.�
Clark knew better than to protest. �Okay. But I�m coming in with you.�
�Boys aren�t allowed in the girls locker room.�
�I doubt that would stop Sean,� Clark said, guiding her towards the locker room. �Don�t worry. I won�t peek.�
�You�d better not.�
Clark straddled the bench running down the middle of the row of lockers. Behind him, Chloe changed clothes. �What happened tonight? How did the pool water get frozen?� he asked.
�The answer to both is Sean.�
�What do you mean?�
�Sean showed up at the Torch earlier as planned, but he looked really weird and was acting even weirder,� Chloe said. �He kept saying that he wanted to get warm and kept trying to touch me. I took off when it looked like he wouldn�t take no for an answer.
�Sean chased me. I thought I could escape through the gym and pool area and ditch him because of the multiple exits, but I slipped and fell into the pool. That�s when things got freaky. You can look now.�
Clark swung his leg over the bench, sitting sideways on it. Chloe sat next to him and put on her sneakers. �Freaky?� he prompted.
�You saw the pool,� Chloe said. �Sean stuck his hand in the water and instant ice.�
Clark whistled softly. �You�re lucky it was only your foot that got caught.�
�I know,� Chloe said. �Jenna Barnum wasn�t so lucky.�
Clark connected the dots in horror. �Sean froze Jenna like he did the pool.�
�That�s what I think,� Chloe said. �We both know there�s no such thing as a coincidence.�
�I want you to call the Sheriff and report Sean once you get home,� Clark said.
�And say what? Sean tried to put me on ice?�
�He attacked you. If he said anything about Jenna, tell them that, too. The Sheriff�s Department isn�t as disbelieving as you would think,� Clark said.
They returned to the Torch office for Chloe�s belongings and Clark escorted her to her car. He followed her home just in case. She waved to him from her front door and made a motion indicating she�d call later.
Undoubtedly, she�d be researching causes for Sean�s freezing ability, like Clark would when he got home. From what Chloe indicated Sean had said, Clark had an inkling it was something more than an icy touch. Sean wanted to get warm; how would freezing Chloe accomplish that?
Clark turned onto Hickory Lane, pondering the correlation between Jenna, pool water, warmth and freezing. Both Jenna and the pool had been frozen solid, the latter unquestionably by Sean. Coincidence was unlikely and it was probable that Sean had indeed caused Jenna�s death. Clark recalled Morgue Attendant Chad�s email on how Jenna�s corpse had frozen completely through, not just the surface of her body.
Clark�s thoughts were interrupted by his headbeams shining on the tail of a red truck, having skidded off the road into the drainage ditch at the end of Lana Lang�s driveway. Clark pulled over. Lana was standing with her arms around herself while Whitney examined the undercarriage of the truck.
�Need a hand?� Clark asked, coming up beside Lana. �Or better yet, a winch?�
�That would be great,� Lana said. �Something darted across the road and Whitney braked quickly. The ice caused us to skid into the ditch.�
Whitney joined them, wearing a scowl. Clark carefully didn�t smile with malicious glee. �I�m glad you�re not hurt,� he said, squeezing Lana�s shoulder lightly. �Why don�t you go up to the house? There�s no need for you to freeze while we get the truck free.�
�I�ll walk you,� Whitney said, wrapping his arm around Lana�s waist.
�I�ll set up the winch,� Clark told Whitney. Whitney nodded stiffly. He and Lana headed up the long driveway towards Lana�s house.
Clark moved his truck into a better position and then hooked the winch to Whitney�s trailer hitch. He planned to give the winch a little hand as soon as the other two were far enough out of sight.
Icy snow crunched behind him. Clark turned and found himself face to face with Sean Kelvin.
�Hey, Kent.� Frost flaked from Sean�s blue-tinged face when he smiled nastily. �Need a hand?�
Sean�s ungloved hands clapped against Clark�s cheeks before Clark had processed the threat. Clark was shocked by the cold he felt and grabbed Sean�s arms, but he couldn�t push Sean off him.
�I bet you like this, don�t you,� Sean said, sliding his hands down to Clark�s neck. �You like having my hands on you.�
Clark�s teeth began to chatter as the coldness spread rapidly through his body, down to his bones. His arms fell lifelessly to his sides. He watched with dread as Sean grew healthier in color, as if he were sucking the warmth from Clark�s body.
�I saw you,� Sean taunted. He caressed Clark�s throat with his thumb. �I saw you go after Swanson into the woods.� He pressed hard against the skin at the base of Clark�s throat. �A couple of fags generating heat.�
Oh god, Sean knew. Clark tried once more to struggle, but it was futile.
Sean moaned in pleasure. �So warm. You�re so warm.� His hands tightened around Clark�s neck, cutting off his air. �Jenna was warm. Chloe would�ve been warm, too, deep inside. She was already wet for me.�
That was the last thing Clark heard before his icy world went dark.
�What if we substitute something for the lemongrass?�
�Citronella may work, depending on the concentration of the oil.�
Clark drifted awake, a warm, pleasant weight lying atop him. His arms were wrapped around a solid body, his hands half-cupping male genitalia. It had been a long time since he�d woken with a lover in his arms�
�I think Clark is coming around.�
�Oh, thank heavens.�
�But never with his mother in the room!
Clark�s eyes snapped open and he sat up abruptly. His chin cracked against the back of a mostly bald head. Lex lay on Clark�s lap, bare back to Clark�s equally bare chest, on the sofa in the Kent family room. The blanket that had been covering them had fallen to the floor. Clark�s hands were trapped down the front of Lex�s unhooked overalls and the parts his hands were touching moved with familiar-feeling interest.
Lex leaned forward slightly, rubbed the back of his head, and looked over his shoulder at Clark. �That hurt.�
�Sorry,� Clark mumbled, blushing heavily. He could see Martha from the corner of his eye, as he yanked his hands free from Lex�s overalls.
Oh god, he had touched Lex�s cock. In front of his mother. Clark didn�t know which distressed him more.
�How are you feeling, hon?� Martha asked, reaching past Lex to place her palm on Clark�s brow.
�Fine,� Clark squeaked. He cleared his voice. �I�m fine. What�s going on?�
�Whitney Fordman found you on the ground outside,� Martha said, turning over her hand to press the back of it against Clark�s skin. �You were frozen stiff. Hypothermic.�
Lex maneuvered on Clark�s lap until he was sitting sideways between Clark�s bare thighs with his legs hanging off the couch. The move made bad things happen in Clark�s boxers. Lex�s smooth chest was well-defined, scattered with freckles, and the sight of it wasn�t helping Clark�s situation.
�It�s important that a hypothermia victim be warmed immediately, but gradually,� Lex began lecturing in that low, hypnotic baritone of a voice, which also wasn�t making things any less hard. �Body-to-body contact is the most reliable source of slow heat in lieu of temperature controlled medical blankets. The body�s heat gathers most along the spine and at the crotch.�
�Oh.� That explained why Lex was half-naked and on top of Clark. Sort of. �Mom?�
Martha was watching him with an apprehensive expression. �We weren�t sure what else to do without violating your stance on hospitals,� she said. �And you know we�d never go against your wishes.�
Clark nodded and shifted uncomfortably. He was very aware of his undressed state, and that his mother suspected something was� up. �I�m going to get dressed.�
Lex stood, and his unfastened overalls dropped low on his hips, barely hanging on by the side buttons.
Clark fled to the laundry room with his hands clasped in front of his crotch.
�Is he awake?� Hearing his dad, Clark buttoned his shirt as he re-emerged into the kitchen. Jonathan looked Clark over from head to toe, nodded satisfactorily, and tossed him a set of keys. �I got Whitney�s truck out of the ditch.�
�Thanks,� Clark said.
Jonathan removed his boots and coat. �Mind telling us what happened out there, son?�
Clark sat down at the kitchen table, where Lex and Martha had relocated. Lex had thankfully re-buttoned his overalls. A pot of coffee was on the table, and Clark poured himself a cup. �This kid named Sean Kelvin seems to have the ability to freeze things.�
�Another mutant?� Lex said, his brow creasing in a frown.
�I think so.�
�Mutant?� Jonathan joined them at the table, exchanging a wary look with Martha.
�Lex, this is more your area of expertise,� Clark said.
Lex colored faintly at the acknowledgement and ducked his chin. He began to explain. �The meteorites in Smallville have more aftereffects than with the soil. They mutate people and animals, too.�
�Is this true?� Martha said worriedly.
Clark nodded. �Sean is the nineteenth affected person that I�ve met since we moved here.�
�Why hasn�t the government done anything about the meteorites, then?� Jonathan said. �Smallville is littered with them.�
�They�re non-radioactive,� Lex said. �The government tested only for radioactivity and bacteria. Although a percentage of the meteorites� elemental makeup was unknown, they deemed them safe. I�ve done research myself and found that the subjects were all in Smallville the day of the original shower. That plus re-exposure for fifteen minutes to the meteorites begins the cell mutation, and no two mutations are identical. Though, not everyone is affected. The government technicians used subjects from outside of Smallville during their testing and there was no mutation.�
�People in Smallville tend to turn a blind eye to the oddities because it�s so common,� Clark said. �Even the Sheriff�s Department knows about the mutants and doesn�t do anything unless they commit a crime.�
�So what�s this Sean kid�s mutation? Freezing?� Jonathan said, accepting the mutant revelation without batting an eyelash. Martha didn�t appear put off, either. Then again, they had an alien for a son and were plant bioengineers.
�I�d say yes, but Sean warmed up as I froze, as if he were sucking the heat from my body.� Clark tapped the side of his coffee cup in thought. �He also said he wanted to get warm when he went after Chloe.�
�Your friend on the paper?� Martha said with concern.
�Mm-hmm.� Clark hummed as he sipped his coffee. �She had a date with Sean earlier this evening. If I hadn�t forgotten my textbook in my locker, she�d have been a victim.�
�Instead, Sean came after you,� Martha said.
�Yeah. He probably wasn�t too happy with my interrupting his date.�
�How do we stop Sean from hurting someone else?� Lex asked.
�I don�t know,� Clark said. �If he touches someone, they become frozen like ice. How do you catch a person without touching them?�
�A trap of some sort?� Jonathan suggested.
�Like locking him in a room?� Clark frowned heavily. �How would we get him there? Where would the trap be? And after that, how would the Sheriff handle him?�
�I don�t know, Clark,� Jonathan said. �Perhaps you should let the Sheriff handle this all together. You did say they have dealt with mutants in the past.�
The electronic trill of Clark�s cell phone interrupted the conversation. Clark saw it sitting on the kitchen island counter and stood to answer it. �Hello?�
�Sean is at my house.�
Panic rose in Clark at Chloe�s statement. �Stay inside. Lock the doors. If he gets in and tries to touch you, run.�
�No worries, Clark,� Chloe said with a prideful note in her voice. �I turned the hose on him. He�s frozen to my driveway.�
Clark stopped with one shoe on at the door. �Chloe!�
�Hey, a reporter has to know how to protect herself. Now get your ass over here and tell me what to do next.�
�I�m on my way. Call the Sheriff.�
Chloe disconnected and Clark sent a prayer to the God of Crazy Reporters to protect her. �Chloe caught Sean,� Clark said, pocketing his phone. He jammed on his other shoe. �I�m going over to her house to wait with her for the Sheriff.�
�May I come, too?� Lex asked, rising from the table.
Since Clark was driving instead of running, he agreed with a nod. �Let�s go.�
�Call if something happens,� Martha said, as Lex put on his coveralls and boots hurriedly.
�I will.� Clark slid on his coat, which had been hanging on the wall rack. �Ready?� he asked Lex.
Lex had no trouble with his seat belt this time around. He still sat stiffly on the drive to Chloe�s, clutching the door handle. Clark tried to distract Lex from his nervousness with conversation.
�Chloe said she turned the hose on Sean and froze him to her driveway. I assume the water froze on contact, but I don�t get why if he froze the whole pool earlier this evening, he didn�t freeze the water going up the hose.�
�Air molecules separate the water molecules in water coming from a hose, and air doesn�t freeze,� Lex said, staring straight out the front windshield. �The pool would have been a concentrated source of water molecules.�
�Okay. That makes sense,� Clark said. �And now that I think about it, maybe Sean�s mutation is the ability to absorb heat, not freeze objects. He had to have touched door handles and the pool deck at school, and I didn�t seen any icy spots.�
�Heat transfers from a solid object much more slowly than a liquid,� Lex said. �The human body may appear solid, but it is comprised primarily of water molecules. That would explain why Sean was able to freeze you like he did the water from the pool. I don�t understand, however, if that is what happened, how you didn�t die.�
�Maybe he didn�t touch me long enough,� Clark suggested, though he had a feeling the answer had entirely to do with his being an alien. Personally, he thought Sean touched him more than enough and in bad way. He hesitated a moment before continuing the topic. �Thanks for warming me up.�
�You�re welcome.� Lex didn�t appear to think anything sexual about the earlier body-to-body contact, so Clark assumed by the lack of blushing or fidgeting. It made Clark feel a hundred times dirtier because of his own reaction.
Clark pulled on to Chloe�s street. He saw the security spotlight on at her house, shining directly on Sean Kelvin, who was indeed frozen to the driveway. He was encased in a thick layer of ice from neck to feet. His skin was tinged blue again and he glowered at Clark as he and Lex approached.
�I see you warmed up.� Sean looked between Clark and Lex and sneered. �Did baldy give you a helping hand?�
�Shut up,� Clark said with a glare. Lex looked taken aback by the insult.
�Or maybe a mouth?�
�Shut up.� Clark�s fists clenched.
Sean smirked nastily. �Or did he generate heat the old fashioned way��
Clark decked Sean. Sean�s head snapped back and the ice cracked around his shoulders. Blood dribbled from his nose, as his head rolled forward and hung still. He was unconscious.
Lex�s intense gaze weighed on Clark. �I did use my body heat to re-warm you.�
�I know,� Clark said, and stalked past him without another word. Chloe emerged from the house with a camera in hand.
�How do you like my ice sculpture?� she said with a quirky grin.
�Very cool,� Clark said flatly, giving her a subtle once-over to make certain she was okay.
�The Sheriff should be here any second,� Chloe said. �Hey, who�s that?�
Clark looked over his shoulder. Lex was circling Sean, the green pom-pom on his hat bobbing as he bent closer and examined the ice. �That�s Lex.�
�Luthor?� Chloe raised her camera immediately and snapped a picture. �Wow. You really do know him. I�m going to get an interview.�
�Chloe�,� Clark trailed off with a sigh as she rushed over to Lex.
Lex back-pedaled at her fast approach, using Sean as a buffer. He looked over at Clark with childishly large eyes beseeching help. Chloe snapped another picture.
Clark went to the rescue.
Wednesday night at seven o�clock, Clark parked behind a line of vehicles in front of a pansy purple house on Harmon. He glanced at the rearview mirror, checking his hair. �You can do this,� he told his reflection.
�That�s all he gets for hurting our son? He should be locked up before he can molest other children! You little faggot! Queers like you are all pedophilic rapists, everyone knows. There�s a place in hell for filth like you.�
Clark shoved aside the memory, got out of the truck, and went to the front door. The doorbell was lit with an inner red light. He stared at it hesitantly.
Lex had been at the Kents� again, working with Jonathan and Martha in the greenhouse. He�d gotten a milk mustache at dinner and wiped it away with the back of his wrist.
Clark squared his shoulders, pressed the button, and smoothed his hair again. The door opened and Hoops Thomson, senior basketball player for Smallville High, loomed over him. �Can I help you?�
�I�m, uh, Clark Kent,� Clark said, feeling more exposed than he�d ever had in his life. �Gavin Swanson said you were having a Closet party?�
Hoops grinned immediately. �You got that right. Come on in. Welcome to the monthly meeting of Queers Anonymous.�
Lex had been ordered by Martha to take a shower before dinner. He had used Clark�s bathroom in the barn. Clark hadn�t known that until he�d walked in on Lex.
Hoops held the door open. Clark stepped inside.