by Shaman and DreamWvr 73

Late fall swooped in over Smallville as mid-October approached, causing trees to drop their brightly colored cloaks in red-and-yellow piles at the bases of their trunks. At the Kent farm, frost formed on the piles of pumpkins that Jonathan Kent had stacked up against the north wall of the barn as gifts for his neighbor's kids to cut into jack-o-lanterns. The big yellow farmhouse was quiet, it's fields bare, fertile but slumbering as it waited for spring's warm kiss to awaken it once more.

In the Kent barn, Caitlin Brown lounged on the couch bed on her stomach up in the loft. Her face buried on a book, she read the English assignment. She sighed as she flipped another page, then glanced over at her boyfriend, Clark Kent sitting at his desk. A smile came to her face as she rolled onto her side and faced him. "Clark do you get this story at all?"

"Sure." Clark mumbled as he completed his algebra assignment. "It's an allegory for good and evil. Hawthorne is famous for that."

"Yeah so I've noticed--" Caitlin closed the book on Young Goodman Brown and shifted over on the bed to make room for him. "Are you done with the math? If so maybe you can come over here and explain to me whether Brown was dreaming or if he truly saw his townsfolk worshipping the Devil." She patted the area of the bed beside her, and her light eyes and slightly wicked grin hinted that English was the last thing on her mind.

"I think you're supposed to figure that out for yourself." Clark smiled as he came over to the bed and sat down. "I think he was dreaming." He went down on one elbow and faced her as he kicked off his sneakers.

"Why do you think he's dreaming? It says very clearly that the noise awoke him." She scooted closer and reached out; her hand touched his red t-shirt gently. The heat of his skin through the material made her smile, as did the fast thumping of his heart against her palm. Tugging the shirt up gently, her lips began to plant light kisses up his pecs to his collarbone. Caitlin then leaned forward and kissed up the side of Clark's neck.

"Uh, ummm . . . " Clark promptly forgot about Hawthorne, English literature and his own name at the feel of Caitlin's lips on his skin. "Uh, I . . . "

"Um? Um?" Caitlin teased as she whispered into his ear, kissing his lobe gently. "I don't recall that part of the story Clark."

Clark grinned and began to laugh softly, his eyes widening as Caitlin did unbelievable things to his ear. "You . . . you're not letting me think!"

"Sometimes thinking has its purpose and place Clark...neither one of them is right here, right now." Her hand curled around the other side of his neck as she blew her warm breath straight into his ear.

A full body shiver ran through Clark and he twitched noticeably. "Right. Got that message. No more English lit." He turned and captured her mouth as she tried to nibble the other side of his neck, and kissed her deeply.

Caitlin sighed with the kiss, her arms coming up and around Clark's neck. She shifted onto her back and took him with her, his long frame stretched out on top of hers and her fingers curled into his dark hair.

Clark kissed her until she was gasping, and then took his revenge by nibbling on her neck and earlobes. He chuckled softly into her ear as he felt her squirm underneath him. "Give up yet?" He teased.

"No way!" Caitlin giggled as he attacked her neck once more. Her arms moved from around his shoulders to slide down his back. She reached the end of his t-shirt and pulled it up; her fingers then glided back up his bare spine.

"Not even if I do this?" Clark asked slyly, nibbling on the sensitive skin at the juncture of Caitlin's neck and shoulder.

Caitlin gasped at that, her head dropping back. Her wandering hands then traveled down the valley of Clark's back and touched the lower area, rubbing it lightly with her fingers. She shuddered at the feel of his teeth on her neck. "Clark...you do that and things might get a lot more heated in here."

Clark had to admit that her squirming against him had made him more than a little physically uncomfortable. "You think so?" He asked hoarsely.

"Uh huh, definitely--" Caitlin craned her neck and gave Clark another kiss, their lips roaming about one another made her groan. Her hands now concentrated on Clark's lower back, feeling the smooth strong muscles beneath his skin...and something else. Her eyes flew open and she broke the kiss as her fingertips traced over a prominent lump in her boyfriend's lower back. "Clark...what is this?"

"UH!" Clark cried as Caitlin's fingers brushed against a spot on his left lower back where he had been vaguely aware of a dull throbbing since he and Caitlin had starting necking. Now her touch sent white-hot forks of pleasure through his body, making his back arch against her hand. "Oh . . . oh God . . . " He whimpered.

"Clark?" She stared into his eyes, the pupils wide, so wide they were almost totally black. She touched his back again and he hissed through his teeth, and a realization came over her that made her own eyes widen. "Oh my God...that...feels good doesn't it? It's...turning you on." Her face broke out in a bright shade of red.

Clark writhed under her touch, his hips rolling helplessly against hers. "Caitlin . . . Caitlin . . . "

Her light eyes widened at the bump and nudge of something heated and solid right up against her pubic bone. She swallowed hard as she stared into Clark's face and saw the desire in his eyes. She pressed her mouth to his and closed her eyes as she stopped touching his lower back and pulled his red t-shirt all the way off, mussing his hair. "I think things are going to be a lot more heated Clark." She whispered as she covered his mouth with hers.

"Mmmnff." Clark moaned against her mouth in agreement, and continued to rub himself against her. Finally, catching himself before things went too far, Clark pushed himself away from her and knelt, breathing hard, his hair mussed and his faded jeans tented at the juncture of his thighs. "Caitlin . . . let's . . . slow . . . . down." He panted.

She sat up; her face flushed and slowly shook her head. "I don't want to slow down Clark, I don't want to stop."

Clark stared at her, his chest heaving. "What . . . what do you mean . . . of course we have to stop."

"No we don't." She shifted to her knees and closer to him. "Clark...I want to be with you." Caitlin's face reddened and she cleared her throat. Her hands touched his chest and slid up his shoulders. "Don't you understand how I feel about you? Don't you know that you're all I think about and how green with envy I got when Lois Lane caught you in the shower and I never have? You're handsome and you're kind and you make me feel so...bad sometimes because I think about kissing you, about touching you and wondering to myself what you look like when you sleep." Her fingers then slid over his collarbone and down his pecs. "You make me feel loved Clark and I want to show you how much I do love you, with not just words but with me...my heart and my soul...and my body."

"But I've never- " Clark shook his head. "Caitlin, we can't. I'm not even human. What if I hurt you?"

"I don't believe you would Clark. I don't believe it for a second." Caitlin cupped his face between both of her hands this time. "I love you Clark and I want to be with you." Her smile grew watery as she caressed his face with her thumbs. "I've never been surer of anything in my life."

Clark swallowed hard, his green eyes sharp and intent as he gazed at her. "I . . . I feel the same way about you. I think about you all the time, Caitlin. What it would be like if we-" He glanced down. "I've never felt about any girl the way I feel about you. Maybe . . . maybe what's happening inside of me now is telling me that it's right, that you're who I should be with for this." After a moment, he reached out hesitantly and touched the side swell of Caitlin's left breast. "Let's find out."

Caitlin's hand trembled as she brought it up to her chest and covered Clark's. She raised her head to look into his eyes and nodded. Clark hesitated, and then his hand moved to unbutton her shirt.. When it hung open, Clark's eyes roved over her, uncertain. Finally, he broke out in nervous laughter. "Umm . . do you-" His long fingers touched the belt loops of her jeans uncertainly.

To answer his question, Caitlin gently took Clark's hand and guided it to the snap of her jeans, touching his fingers just inside the waistband. He brushed them against her stomach and she giggled softly at the tickling sensation.

The feel of her skin made Clark inhale sharply and the next thing he knew the button of Caitlin's jeans was laying in his hands, one frayed thread hanging from its eye. He bit his lip. "Oh . . . uh, sorry." He laid the button aside carefully, and then lowered her fly with exaggerated care.

"It's all right Clark; I can sew it back on..." Caitlin's smile faded as she looked up at Clark, her bluish-grey eyes spoke of trust and love.

His jeans were painfully tight again, but Clark didn't want to push Caitlin too quickly. Who knew if she'd ever seen a naked man before? He eased her onto her back gently, and her shirt fell away from her chest, fully revealing her white sports bra, it had a front enclosure and her position drew it taut across her breasts.

Caitlin sat back up and helped him. She then lowered her head and gently brushed her lips against his chest, letting her instincts guide her. Her lips nuzzled his warm skin and she sighed. Her heart pounded hard against her ribs as she tasted his sweat.

"Caitlin . . . . Caitlin . . . " Clark whimpered, knowing that he couldn't stand the pressure of skin on fabric too much longer.

She stopped her kisses, simply resting her head against his chest. Her fingers glided down the smooth skin of his chest and stomach. With a tug, the button on his jeans popped open and her hand shook again as she slowly pulled the zipper down. Raising her head, she saw the flush in his cheeks and gave him a small smile. "Is that what you wanted?" Caitlin then touched the opens of her shirt and slid it down her arms, dropping it over the side of the bed.

Clark nodded and squirmed out of his jeans, shoving them away with a kick of his left foot. He was now left in his underwear and socks, Caitlin in her open jeans and no shirt. Clark swallowed hard and touched her face. "We . . . we should, uh . . . you know, use something."

"Do we have anything?" Caitlin's eyes widened, in the heat of the moment she hadn't even thought of that.

"I do." Clark admitted, blushing. He reached over to the small end table that stood nearby and opened one of the drawers. He rifled through a bunch of junk until he came up with a small square package. He held it up to show Caitlin, who looked curious.

"Where did those come from?" She asked and Clark pulled a small black envelope from inside the package and handed it to her. Inside the envelope, a single piece of white stationary bore the initials LL in the letterhead. "Happy 17th Birthday Clark, I certainly hope you put these to good use...Lex." "Lex gave you these?" Caitlin touched her hand to her mouth and giggled. "I can't say I'm surprised."

"Sometimes I think he just likes to see me squirm. Joke's on him this time though." Clark grinned and fumbled the condom open. Once it was in place, Clark's expression changed again and he eased Caitlin onto her back once more. "I love you." He said softly, and surrendered his virginity in the dim light of his hideaway.

An hour later, Clark lay in Caitlin's arms, his body and hair damp with sweat and contentment. His green eyes gleamed through half closed lids, and he smiled languidly. So that's what Lex had been trying to explain to him all these years. He nestled his head further into the crook of Caitlin's arm and stretched until even his toes arched upward. "Oh, boy." He sighed.

Caitlin heard him and sighed happily as she turned toward Clark and buried her head in the juncture between his neck and shoulder. "You better call Lex, Clark." She whispered as she gave the side of his neck a kiss.

Clark opened his eyes and pulled back to look at her. "What for?"

She gave him a smile and touched her forehead to his. "Tell him he needs to send more, but make it bigger than a three-pack this time." Her smile widened as she began to laugh.

Clark blushed so hard that his neck turned red, but he burst into laughter as well. "I'll tell him to send a case or two over just in case you spend the night sometime." He sighed and sat up, suddenly feeling awkward. "Caitlin?"

"Yeah Clark?" She saw the uncertainty in his face and tipped her head a little to one side. "What's wrong?" A horrible thought occurred to her and she sat up, the sheet sliding down a little to reveal the top of her bare chest. "You don't regret this...do you?" Caitlin asked, her pulse speeding up again.

Clark's head snapped up. "No! No, not at all!" He shrugged a little and smiled boyishly. "It . . it was good. I just wanted to ask you if . . . if you liked it." He looked away from her and his fingers trailed the sheet beside him. "Did you? Like it?"

Sighing in relief, Caitlin touched Clark's chin and turned his face back towards her. "I'll put it to you like this, Clark Kent..." She started, a shy smile coming to her lips. "Does Smallville have an all night drug store?"

Clark grinned and toyed with the sheet some more. "Oh. I, umm . . . I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Caitlin thought about it a moment and decided that honesty was the best policy. She moved closer to him and covered his hand with hers, her fingers stroking along his. "A little bit...it did when you first...but after that, no it didn't hurt." Her own face burned in a blush. "You are even more handsome without your clothes than I imagined." Caitlin touched his chin and made him face her again. "Clark, that lump on your back..." She then turned him away from her and ran her hand down his spine. Her fingers brushed his lower back and she gave the area a thorough rub. "Hmmm that's odd."

"It's gone." Clark said, and looked up at her. "Are you sure you it was there before?"

"Yeah I'm sure Clark, it felt like a big kidney bean and my rubbing it is what got you all excited." Caitlin kept rubbing and leaned over to study the area. "It's gone...maybe it has something to do with your...drive."

A big grin broke out on Clark's face and he squirmed under her hand. "If you keep doing that, we're going to find out."

"You make that sound like a bad thing." Caitlin teased as she rolled him back over and leaned her head against his chest with a sigh. "I do love you Clark but I think I love you more than ever now."

Clark looked alarmed. "Caitlin, you don't have to say that just because we . . . " He sat up and fumbled for his tee shirt.

Her small hand reached out and touched his shoulder gently, then the red shirt in his hands stopping him from putting it on. "I'm not just saying that Clark...I mean it."

Clark swallowed audibly and looked her in the eye. "I just don't want you think that you have to say or do anything else differently because we were . . . together. This doesn't change anything, Caitlin. I loved you before and I love you now."

"I said that because it's the truth Clark, not an obligation because you made love to me." Her hand released the t-shirt and touched the side of his face. "Nothing can ever change how I feel about you, whether we ended up in this bed or not."

He gave her a bright smile that was both shy and sweet as Clark tugged his tee shirt on. "Me too." He admitted, and lay back down with her. "Are you warm enough?" He asked. "It can get pretty drafty up here."

"Ohh I might be if a certain someone would lay down and snuggle under the blanket with me." Caitlin grinned then touched the side of her cheek. "Gee, I wonder who I could be talking about?" She raised her gaze to the ceiling as if thinking hard about the answer.

"Let me take a guess." Clark grinned, and put his arm around her as he drew a patchwork quilt over them both.

As the cold night wore on Clark slept fitfully, his dreams full of bitter sweat and ominous visions. He moaned softly, turning restlessly this way and that, his thick black hair damp with sweat.

"Awaken my son..." A familiar deep voice echoed in the young man's head. "You must awaken and bring her to me... Bring Caitlin to me...To the caves...You must bring her to the caves..." The words became more insistent, the lilt speaking of an urgency that couldn't be ignored. "Awaken!"

"Huh!" The sound was jerked from Clark as he jackknifed in his bed, his green eyes wide and blank. After a moment, a grim and intent expression settled over his face and he threw the bedcovers aside as he swung his legs out from the bed and got to his feet. He dressed quickly and pushed open the doors covering the loft window, inviting in a cold whoosh of late fall.

Caitlin rolled over, her hand reaching out to touch Clark's chest. She felt nothing but bed and a sudden blast of cold air awoke the young woman. She sat up in bed dreamily and rubbed her eyes.

"Clark?" She spotted him beside the window and pulled the sheet up higher on herself to ward off the loft's sudden drop in temperature.

The tall youth stepped forward, his face in half shadow as he stared at his girlfriend. "Come with me. He is waiting." Clark stretched out his right hand toward her not in request, but in command.

"Go see who? Who's waiting?" Caitlin shivered from both the air and Clark's tone. She couldn't take it anymore and got up from the bed. She quickly put her clothes back on and rubbed her arms, trying to get warm.

"He is waiting. Come with me." Clark scooped her up in his arms like a groom carrying his bride over the threshold and leapt out the window. Caitlin cried out in alarm and slipped her arms around his neck to keep from falling, but Clark didn't react to her fear. He hit the ground running and headed away from town, cutting across an empty field that led into the woods, and the Kawatche Caves.

"Clark! Where are we going?" Caitlin closed her eyes, her head resting against Clark's chest as she tried to shield herself from the freezing air his super speed inspired. He didn't answer and she risked a glance at her surroundings. They were in the deep woods. "The caves...we're going to the caves." She then looked at his trance-like state and swallowed hard, her heart speeding up in fear. "It's Jor-El that waiting for us isn't it?"

Clark didn't reply as they reached the caves and vanished underground. Once there, he set Caitlin gently on her feet and pressed his hand against an indentation in the rock wall. A circular formation of symbols lit up, and Caitlin gasped as a portion of the wall slid open in a wash of bright white light. Clark took her hand and walked into the light without hesitation.

"Clark...I'm scared. What does he want?" Caitlin asked him, giving his hand a squeeze as they entered the secret chamber, the light becoming so bright she shut her eyes against it. A strong wind blew back her sandy brown hair and she turned toward Clark, her head against his chest.

"You have done well my son...You have brought her to me...Your obedience speaks of your loyalty to me..."

"Yes, father." Clark replied as he stared up at the light.

Caitlin heard the voice and opened her eyes; she saw nothing but swirling colors and vapors that flew all around them like specters.

"What do you want? Haven't you done enough? You took him for three months! What more do you want?"

"Silence child! Listen to my words..."

Caitlin squeezed her eyes shut and pressed herself closer to Clark, frightened that she had lost him to Jor-El again.

"Yes...Cling to him my child...Cling to him no matter what...For I have called you both here to give you warning..."

"A warning, father?" Clark asked, his voice deep and somehow dangerous, so much unlike his usual warm tone that it made Caitlin shiver.

"Yes...Long ago before you were born, our people fought for this planet against a vicious enemy from the planet Torg...They were a formidable foe and for many decades we fought until the last had fallen...Or so we believed... But we were wrong... One Togarian remains and worst of all...that enemy has returned to this planet..."

Clark's eyes widened. "Torg. Danger . . . " His tone was flat and urgent, and Caitlin knew something inside him that he wasn't even aware of had made him respond. A conditioned response, something ancient, like the survival sense of a prey animal. His hands twitched.

"There is a danger my son but one that you might not expect...The lone Torg has taken over the form of someone close to you....The symbol has been branded into their body...You will know it when you see it...When the time comes, the person you know will no longer exist but the beast inside will take over to complete a dark purpose...The revival of the Torg civilization is their goal..."

"The last son of Krypton begets the first son of evil." Clark replied as if speaking by rote and Caitlin's blood turned to ice at both the words and their implied meaning.

Gathering her courage, she turned toward the light. "What are you doing to him? What is he talking about?"

"It is said that the last survivor of Krypton and the last Torg will join together to create a dominant race of super beings that are as evil as they are strong..."

"That can't be!" Caitlin shouted as she looked up at Clark's face. "Clark would never be part of something that created evil!"

"He will be corrupted by the Torg...turned away from his true destiny and forced into another..."

These words made Caitlin feel small and helpless. She clung to Clark even tighter, frightened of losing him to forces she didn't even understand. "How can we fight back?" She asked, mostly to herself.

"Some things are stronger than the forces of good...But there is still hope Caitlin..."

"I don't understand!" Caitlin cried, and the colors began to fade. "Wait! Jor-El, please!" She called, but then the light collapsed in on itself, leaving silence and near-darkness in its wake. Clark's body jerked as the light vanished and he blinked, looking like a sleepwalker who has just awakened to find himself outside in his pajamas.

"Clark?" She reached up to take his face in her hands. "Do you remember any of that?" She glanced over her shoulder at where the light source had been before focusing her attention back on Clark.

Clark blinked again and looked down at her. "Danger." He said softly. "We're in danger." He took her hand and pulled her through the entrance. "Come on, let's get out of here." Clark palmed the lock set into the rock and the door closed smoothly with no indication that it had ever been there. Moving quickly, he led Caitlin to the surface and glanced around. It was nearly two a.m., and very cold. Caitlin trembled, and Clark put his arm around her. "I'm sorry, Caitlin. I'm sorry he made me bring you down here. Are you all right?"

"I'm all right Clark; I just don't understand why this is happening. Why is an old enemy coming back for you and wearing a familiar face no less?" She shuddered, stepping closer to Clark and his body heat.

Clark frowned. "I don't completely trust Jor-El after what happened this summer, Caitlin. It might be another trick so that he can get control of me again. Besides, I don't care what he says; I'd never agree to become something evil!"

"I know Clark, believe me I know." She wrapped her arms around his waist, her head against his chest. "But the idea that someone is coming to hurt you..." she sighed and closed her eyes.

Clark held her tightly against her, careful not to squeeze too hard and hurt her. "Don't worry. Nothing can hurt me."

"Yes Bonnie she's just fine. They fell asleep studying." She nodded. "Jonathan just checked on them both up and they're asleep. In a little while, we'll make sure they're both awake and getting ready for school. Right...I'll let Caitlin know how worried you were about her. All right Bonnie, bye."

Martha frowned as she hung up the phone and tightened the tie on her pink robe. She shut the teapot off and poured four mugs of hot chocolate, the barely risen sun shining directly into her kitchen. "That was your mother Caitlin; she was relieved you were all right." She picked up the tray of mugs and brought them into the living room. "What did Jor-El want?"
The two teenagers sat on the couch wrapped in a heavy quilt, trying to quiet their trembling not only from exposure to the night air but Jor-El's words. Her husband sat in his chair, a blue and black plaid robe around him. He smiled and took a mug from her. "Thank you, sweetheart." He sipped the cocoa and looked his son over carefully.

Although extremes of any temperature usually never affected Clark, he was shivering. "Clark . . . son, are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine dad." Clark said a little too quickly, and looked up at his mother. "Jor-El didn't threaten me. He said he was trying to warn me."

"Warn you of what?" Martha scoffed as she sat on the arm of Jonathan's chair and sipped from her blue mug.

Caitlin leaned closer to Clark, pulling the quilt even tighter around her. "I wasn't thrilled talking to him either but Clark is right, he did warn us of a threat coming for Clark." She shuddered at her own words and practically burrowed into Clark's side.

"What kind of threat?" Jonathan pressed, and Clark set his mug aside without even tasting the cocoa.

"He said that danger will come in the form of a familiar face."

"And bearing the mark of the enemy." Caitlin added, earning a raised eyebrow from Clark's mother.

"A mark? What kind of a mark?"

"I don't know, Jor-El said that Clark would recognize it once he saw it."

Clark sighed. "So I'm supposed to be suspicious of all of my friends and watch for a mark I won't even recognize until I see it!" He got up and began to pace, the soggy hems of his jeans flapping around his bare feet. "It doesn't make any sense!"

Martha rose to her feet and watched her son walk back and forth. "Clark since when has anything your biological father done made sense?" She shook her head, sighing in frustration. "He kidnapped you for three months and put your father in a coma." Her jaw worked a moment as she turned back toward her husband. "We don't even know what he's capable of or if he's even telling the truth about this threat. It could be another trick."

Clark closed his eyes briefly as snippets of memory came back to him; snippets of time he had spent in that cave after Jor-El had taken him. None of the brief memories were pleasant, and he shook his head. "I think it's a trick. I think he's lying about this threat to get closer to me again."

"If he had wanted you Clark he would have taken you back tonight. I certainly couldn't have stopped him and you were under his influence." Caitlin suddenly closed her mouth, looking puzzled. She had just defended Jor-El. A look of disbelief appeared on her face. "Did I just say that?"

"You did." Jonathan replied flatly, and set his cup down. "I got chores to do. The cows aren't going to milk themselves, after all." He got up from his easy chair and headed for the staircase. Clark watched him go, his green eyes troubled.

"Dad..." Clark went to the stairs, swallowing hard as he watched his father climb a few steps and turn around. "Dad I know you don't want to believe what Jor-El said but...what if he's right? What if some Kryptonian enemy is coming after me?"

"Clark, you've said yourself that I can't always protect you anymore. If Jor-El is telling the truth and there is some kind of danger, the best we can do is keep on living our lives and keep our eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. Now c'mon, get dressed and help me out in the barn."

"Okay." Clark didn't say anything more, just went up the stairs behind his father.

Caitlin watched both men depart and stood up, wrapping the quilt around her. "Thank you for covering for me to Bonnie..." She said as she approached the older woman, and then studied the troubled look on Martha's face. Her hand reached out and came to rest on her shoulder. In the three months of Jonathan's coma and Clark's absence, the two women had grown closer, relying on only themselves to get them through the tough times. "You're frightened for them both, aren't you?"

Martha nodded a little. "Both Jonathan and I know that Clark's future is bigger than both of us put together, and that can be a lot to handle sometimes. And Jonathan . . . he seems fine, but I still worry about his health. We just were getting back to normal around here . . . . I hope Clark is right, and what happened last night was just a trick to get him back in those caves."

"It wasn't a trick Martha." Caitlin whispered, giving the trembling shoulder a squeeze. "Jor-El said something else that makes me believe him."

Martha turned to the young girl. "What?"

Her light eyes stared directly into Martha's blue. "He that there is still hope..." She took in a deep breath. "Whatever this enemy is there's still hope to defeat it and save Clark."

Martha glanced back toward the empty staircase, her heart aching. "Caitlin, for Clark's sake, for all our sakes, I hope you're right."

That afternoon, following his father's advice to simply live his life, Clark went to football practice. Caitlin tagged along, bundled up in a big red sweater and a striped scarf. She sat on the bleachers, watching Clark throw and catch passes as Coach Teague yelled out directions.

"He's got a good arm." A laconic female voice said near Caitlin's elbow, and she look up with a start to see a slim dark blond standing there, her hair tied back in a ponytail. She was watching Clark as well. "I hope he's gotten over the urge to show off other assorted body parts in public."

Caitlin raised an eyebrow at the statement, staring at the dark blond woman in the blue turtleneck and jeans. "Oh I think he has, trust me on that." She stood up and held out her right hand. "You must be Lois."

"And you must be someone who knows Clark pretty well to make that kind of statement." The girl smiled. "Lois Lane, unwilling participant in the 'let's-send-Lois-back-to-high-school experiment."

"Caitlin Brown...girlfriend of the aforementioned teenager with the temporary el natural streak." They shook hands and Lois looked a little stunned at what she had said.

"Girlfriend? Well! Smallville never mentioned that he had a girlfriend. Guess he was right, he's not too much of a geek after all." Mild affection belied her words as she sat down beside Caitlin. "So . . . what's it like? I imagine it's like hanging around a flannel-covered tree, but I don't think trees blush nearly as half as often as he does." Lois chuckled as she thought of how she'd walked in on him as he took a shower the week before.

"There's more to Clark then his love of flannel Lois." Caitlin smiled her affection for Clark deep in her light eyes. "But you're right Clark does tend to blush a lot especially if you catch him in the shower." Her face remained passive but the relief that Lois had taken over Lana's old room at Chloe's house showed in her small smile. "He told me all about your lack of shyness."

"I learned a long time ago that you don't get very far in life being shy. Besides, being raised by a four-star army general doesn't exactly make you a wallflower." She watched Clark throw another pass. "How long have you two been dating?"

Caitlin's gaze went to Clark a moment. She watched him catch a Hail Mary and raise his arms in celebration. She clapped at that, waving at him and he waved back, his grin visible all the way from the field as he took off his helmet. "Almost eight months." She turned back to Lois. "Seems like a long time doesn't it?"

Lois grinned. "I was with him for three hours and it felt a lot longer than that. He's a nice kid, but Smallville and I don't exactly see eye to eye. He sure seems to have it bad for you, though." Lois commented, noticing Clark's bright grin.

"I have it bad for him too." Caitlin watched as he put his helmet back on and joined a huddle before the team clapped and prepared to run a play. She saw Lois raise an eyebrow. "Does that surprise you?"

Lois shrugged. "Just because we don't see eye to eye doesn't mean I haven't looked down, Caitlin." She smiled coyly, and then sobered. "No, it doesn't surprise me, and I'm glad he has someone to watch out for him while he's busy watching out for everyone else." Lois stood up as Clark came jogging over, his helmet under one arm. "Hey Smallville, you keep throwing off-center like that and The Crows are going to end up under the cellar this season." She met his eyes with a challenging smile.

"Thanks. I'll remember that." Clark grated with a long-suffering smile. Ever since Lois had dunked him at the homecoming fair, there'd been no living with her. "Caitlin, this is-"

"Lois Lane...your rescuer from the cornfield and invader of your shower time." Caitlin stated and hugged him around the waist; his face already red from practice hid his blush. "Lois and I were just talking about you."

Clark's glance flicked between the two women as he remembered well Lana's reaction to Caitlin when they'd first started dating. "Oh. Uh . . . really?"

"Yeah...Lois was just giving me her insights on a few things, that's all." Caitlin kissed Clark on the cheek wrinkling her nose at him teasingly.

Clark turned to look at Lois, his eyes wide, and the other girl laughed boisterously.

"Boy, look at him squirm!"

"Don't worry Clark, just a little harmless girl talk that's all." Caitlin whispered in his ear before giving his cheek another kiss. "You better get back out there before Coach Teague makes you do extra laps."

"Right!" He gave her a quick kiss before shooting Lois a long-suffering, aggrieved stare. "Lois, always a pleasure." He took off in long strides as the football team spread out along the perimeter of the football field to run laps. "Looks like Smallville is well on his way to becoming a jock." Lois observed.

"Yeah he is..." Caitlin smiled proudly as she watched Clark run. "Joining the football team has always been a dream of his. I'm glad this year he got to do it."

"I'm actually surprised he's waited this long." Lois glanced at her watch and rolled her eyes. "Oh great, I'm late for a meeting with my so-called counselor. The last time we met, he spent forty-five minutes calling me Louise and asking what grade I was in. See you later, Caitlin!" She trotted off with a wave and grin, her dark blonde ponytail bouncing against her back as she departed.

"Bye Lois!" Caitlin called back as the young woman disappeared. She couldn't help but smile. In a lot of ways, Lois reminded her of Chloe albeit a bit more daring and bold. "Quite a pair those two." She said of the two cousins as she sat back down and continued to watch Clark.

Clark finished his laps and came trotting toward her again, his endurance apparently limitless. He hadn't even broken a sweat, and the other players were straggling into the locker room, their hair and jerseys wet with sweat despite the cool weather. "All done." Clark smiled. "Ready to go?"

"All ready." Caitlin put an arm around his waist. "Can I help you clean up?" She teased grinning at him. "I'd be glad to."

He gave her a dubious smile. "I think mom has caught me in that situation one too many times this month already, but thanks for the offer." He took her hand as they left the football field, and then Clark hesitated as he heard a familiar voice call out to him.

"Clark! Hey, wait up!"

Lana was running toward them, and Clark felt Caitlin stiffen slightly at his side. Clark smiled obligingly as his lifelong crush ran up to him, her almond eyes sparkling.

"I saw you practice, you were great! Why did you wait so long to join the team?"

"Well let's just say that I had to take matters into my own hands..." He glanced at Caitlin a moment and seeing her forced smile, decided quickly to change the subject. "So I hear the Talon is reopening, any idea when that's going to happen?"

"I'm still negotiating with Lex. I want your mom to manage it so that I can concentrate on enrolling in college next fall. I'm thinking of maybe going to Europe as well . . . maybe Italy or Ireland." She glanced at Caitlin. "What about you, Caitlin? Any plans for college?"

Caitlin smiled, genuinely this time. "Yeah actually." She turned to look at Clark. "Clark and I are thinking about going to KSU for the fall."

"Really, Kansas State?" She looked up Clark. "Sticking close to home, huh?"

Clark nodded. "My dad's heart isn't what it used to be, and this way I can go to school and still help out at home."

"Not all of us can be world travelers, Lana." Caitlin tightened her arm around Clark's waist. "What do you say Clark? Shall we go hit the books up in your loft?" She asked gazing up into his face.

Clark gave her a polite but direct warning with his eyes. The last thing he wanted was to get into the middle of a catfight. Caitlin and Lana had never gotten along, not even when Caitlin had first moved to town, and it had gotten worse when he and Caitlin had begun dating. "Um, yeah. I have afternoon chores anyway. See you later, Lana." He led Caitlin away, and then sighed as they walked into the parking lot. "Caitlin, do you guys have to snipe at each other like that?"

"And her little `staying close to home' remark wasn't a snipe at you?" Caitlin stopped walking and turned toward her boyfriend. "It was, Clark. Her tone implied a lot, like you don't have any guts or something."

"There's a lot of history there, Caitlin. Lana and I have kind of a complicated relationship, and I think it's hard for her to see me dating someone so seriously." They reached the pickup and Clark opened the passenger side door for her.

Caitlin slipped inside the truck and clicked on her seatbelt. "I know it's hard for her, but I've never done anything to Lana yet she treats me like I don't even have the right to look at you." She leaned towards the driver's side and reached out to touch Clark's face. "I'm sorry you are constantly put in the middle between us but the way she treats you isn't right Clark. You have a right to be happy if she can't accept that then I'm sorry but I won't let her trample on you, not anymore."

"I appreciate that Caitlin, but like I said Lana and I have a history that goes back to when we were in kindergarten. She gets angry because she's scared about how things are changing, that's all." Clark started the pickup and pulled out of the parking lot, turning away from town and in the direction of The Kent Farm.

"I don't know why she holds on; from what I've heard she seems perfectly happy with Coach Teague." Caitlin leaned back in her seat and rubbed her arms, staring out at the scenery that whipped by. "If she's happy with the coach why does she still make our lives so difficult?"

"I'm sure she doesn't mean to, Caitlin . . . . sometimes its harder for some people than others to move forward, especially someone like Lana. She's had a rough time of it."

Ten minutes later, they reached the farm, and Clark grinned as he saw his dad out by the barn, baling hay and looking so much like his old self that it seemed what had happened to him that summer had been rewound and erased. Clark jumped from the truck and ran toward him, and Jonathan gave him a warm smile.

"Hey All-star." Jonathan beamed and caught the football his son threw at him. "How was practice today?"

"Great!" Clark smiled as he glanced around. "You're not working too hard, are you? You know what the doctor said; he said you shouldn't do too much too soon!"

"Yeah yeah I know." Jonathan took the football in his hands and drew his arm back then mimed the motions as if he was going to throw it into the field. "But that doctor doesn't have a farm to run."

"You also don't have to run it alone. Let me go change and I'll come back and help you, okay?" Clark smiled and headed for the house. Once in his room, he shrugged out of his football uniform, showered quickly, pulled on an old pair of jeans, red tee shirt and a matching hooded sweatshirt, and then jogged back downstairs. His mind on football, the farm and Caitlin, Clark smiled as he slammed out of the front door, the events of the previous night seeming like a bad dream.

Lana arrived at Chloe's house to find it empty and a note on the table from her friend saying that she and Gabe had gone for groceries and would be back around nightfall. With a sigh, Lana dropped her backpack and purse on the dining room table and climbed the steps to the room she shared with Chloe. Her friend's laptop and schoolbooks sat in a neat pile on her desk, and Lana went to the closet to pull out a pale yellow sweat suit, which she laid on the bed to change into after a shower.

Her encounter with Clark and his girlfriend still rankled her. Clark was obviously starting come out of that self-contained phase he'd been going through since his freshman year, and had the potential to become extremely popular at Smallville High this year. Lana hadn't seen anyone throw a football like he had that afternoon since Whitney had played for The Crows, and knew that the team would have a winning season.

Not that I'm not happy for him . . . . I'm glad he's finally starting to open up. To everyone . . . but . . . me. Lana thought as she stalked into the bathroom with her shampoo and towels. She thought of the possessive way that Caitlin Brown had clung to Clark during their entire conversation, and she hadn't been able to resist needling the petite girl just a bit.

"Why her?" Lana asked her reflection in the mirror above the bathroom sink. "Why did he choose her instead of me, after all these years?"

"Because he does not understand his destiny, Lana Lang."

Lana turned and gasped aloud as the strange voice seemed to come at her from everywhere at once. She swallowed hard. "No. I'm not hearing this." She laughed nervously, and then cried out in pain as the rune-like symbol tattooed on her back seemed to catch fire and brand her like a calf. Her hands flew to the small of her back as she cried out, and then she turned back toward the mirror. As she watched, her own reflection swam and changed. Her brunette hair shortened and went a deep bluish-black, her almond eyes went catlike, the irises diamond-shaped and the color of old amber. A grin stretched her mouth to reveal gleaming white teeth. Lana trembled. "Who . . . who are you?" She whispered.

"The last residue of a dead race, Lana Lang . . . dead until you help the last son of Krypton realize his true destiny."

"Last son of Krypton?" Lana creased her brow shaking her head slowly. "I don't know who that is and I don't know who you are..." She started backing away from the mirror but stopped when another strong twinge at the small of her back made her sink to her knees. She touched it and her face cringed in agony. "Please...please stop this..."

"You have been chosen because you understand that his destiny does not lie with the people of this planet, but with us, the Torg.. I am called Domminus. I was once Emperor of The Torg, a people whose sought to rule this planet, but were destroyed by our enemy, Krypton. Knowing that we would never give up our claim on this planet or its people, the ruler of Krypton sent them his only son to watch over and protect it. Now the time has come for you to join us, and turn him toward his true destiny . . . . the rebirth of the Torg race!"

"Chosen? But why? Why are you doing this?" Lana dropped her head, the pain only intensifying to the point her lower back felt like it was on fire. "I don't even know who you're talking about!" Her long hair fell forward, concealing her face like a curtain. "This isn't happening...this is just a bad dream!"

"A dream that will soon become reality, Lana Lang, as you join me in leading the glorious rebirth of our people and turn the last son of Krypton into nothing more than our breeding slave. Once he belongs to us, we will populate this planet with a new breed of Torg, one that cannot be destroyed, and enslave the human race as well as those like them all over the galaxy! Come with me now, Lana Lang, and learn of your destiny!"

A bright blue light washed over the bathroom and Lana shrieked as it consumed her . . . her mind, her body, her soul...

Jonathan flicked off his welding torch and shoved the goggles that protected his eyes up onto his forehead as he scowled at Martha. They were in the doorway of the barn, where Jonathan was welding a crimp in the tractor's exhaust system. Martha sighed and handed him a towel with which to wipe his face. He relaxed a little at her worried face, and gave her a reproachful look. "I'm sorry, sweetheart, I didn't mean . . . " He took a deep breath and closed his eyes briefly before continuing. "Look, I'm not saying that Jor-El's motives are completely selfish, I'm just saying that after what happened this summer, it's dangerous for Clark to go down in those caves again!" "A lot of things happened this summer Jonathan." Martha crossed her arms over her chest as she walked around the barn, glancing up at her son's hang out. "Jor-El is Clark's biological father whether we like it or not. If it wasn't for Jor-El we wouldn't have Clark." She turned around to face her husband. "I don't understand why it was that Jor-El took him and made him into Kal-El, maybe it was a test. We might not ever know but his warning seems to be for real and we can't just ignore it and get on with our lives."

Jonathan frowned, not much caring to have his own words thrown back at him. "Martha, that's all we can do! What are supposed to tell Clark, to be suspicious of everyone until he gets so jumpy that he can't even function? What good is that going to do him? He's just getting back to normal after this summer, and now that he's on the football team he's finally starting to feel like he fits in . . . I don't want to take that away from him."

"I don't want to either Jonathan but we have to believe that this warning is real. If someone is truly after Clark..." She touched her hand to her mouth a moment, squeezing her eyes shut as her emotions threatened "We lost him for three months when his father took him; I don't think I can take it if we lost him again."

"Sweetheart . . . " Jonathan stepped forward and embraced her tightly, resting his chin in her red hair. "We're not going to lose him. I believe Clark when he says he'd never be a part of anything evil. Besides, from what you said, Kal-El is dead, and Clark has control of his own destiny again."

"Kal-El is dead, that's why when Clark first said that Jor-El called him to the cave.. I got nervous. I thought that maybe he was going to do something to Clark." She touched the strong hands around her waist and sighed, leaning back against her husband's strong chest.

"Martha . . . . we can't protect Clark like we used to. He's almost eighteen now, and next year he'll be going off to college. We won't be able to watch him every minute, and we have to show him that we trust the decisions that he makes. He's got to gain confidence in himself, and that won't happen if he thinks we doubt him."

Martha opened the arms around her waist and turned around. "We do trust him Jonathan, we've always trusted him." Her arm looped around his neck as she studied his face. "But I'd like to think that no matter how old Clark gets or how much he grows up...part of him is always going to need us. That's what is going to give him the confidence he's going to need for the future."

Jonathan nodded. "You're right. Until then, all we can do is love him and try to help him figure things out as best we can." Jonathan chuckled. "It's just that sometimes I'd wish he'd come to me with some normal teenaged problems, like he dented my truck or got into trouble with his teachers. After all, what do you say when your seventeen-year-old son comes to you and says he has to save the world and he needs your advice?"

"Uhhh..." Martha grinned at that but then her smile faded. "You tell him to do the right thing, no matter what." She tugged on the back of her husband's head bringing it closer as she hugged him, sighing against his shirt. "Ward Cleaver made it look so easy didn't he?"

Jonathan chuffed his amusement and kissed his wife gently. "Yeah, well . . . . that's because The Beaver couldn't see through walls or lift his father's sedan over his head."

Martha chuckled lightly.
"You forgot kicking holes in the walls with his sneakers and making Jiffy Pop without the benefit of the stove."

"Don't remind me." Jonathan said with a shake of his head, and then smiled as he saw Clark jogging up the driveway. "Speak of devil." He smiled, and waved at his son as he approached the barn. "Hey son! How was-" He cut himself off and frowned when he saw Clark's expression. It was distinctly nervous. His sea foam eyes darted around constantly, lighting on one thing and then flitting off again like a nervous insect. "Clark? Are you okay?"

Martha creased her brow at the look on her son's face and untangled herself from her husband's embrace. She approached him, both of hands touching his forearms. "Clark? What is it?" She asked her stomach knotting.

Clark looked down at her, and Martha noticed that her son was sweating, something he hardly ever did under normal circumstances. "I . . . I don't know." He said softly. "I went to school this morning and the whole day I just felt . . . wrong." He finished lamely.

Nodding, Martha touched his forehead, the skin under her fingers felt warm. "Did you eat something wrong or go near the caves?" His cheeks were flushed, his pupils so wide his green irises were completely overtaken. "Something's definitely going on Clark."

Jonathan touched his son's shoulder and he started so badly that Jonathan took a hasty step backwards. "I think you're right, Martha, and whatever it is doesn't look good. What about what your mom asked you, Clark, did you eat anything strange or go near the caves?"

Clark shook his head. "No . . . no, I just went to school. That's all. But the whole day I just felt like someone or something was watching my every move. I know that sounds strange but that's the only way I can describe it!"

"Like..." Martha looked at her son's heaving chest a moment. "Like something instinctual inside of you was trying to tell you something?"

"I don't know, I'm not sure. Maybe." Clark wiped his upper lip with the sleeve of his over shirt. "I'm going to go inside and take a shower, okay?"

"All right, Sweetheart." Martha forced herself to smile at her son, and then shot a worried glance at her husband before turning her attention back to Clark. "Then we'll have some dinner."

"Yeah . . . okay." Clark's eyes darted to the left and right before he started for the house, and Jonathan stared at his son's departing figure worriedly. "This is one of those times, Martha."

"Jor-El's warning was right Jonathan...and we just got the proof." Martha shuddered as a chill ran down her spine and suddenly her dark maroon sweater did little to ward off the cool autumn air.

Clark tossed his backpack onto a kitchen chair and bolted for his room, pulling off his flannel over shirt and yellow tee shirt as he went. He was nearly nude when he reached the bathroom, and kicked off his underwear as he slammed the door shut and turned on the shower. He turned on the hot water as high as it would go and stepped under the spray, letting the steaming water soak his hair. He rested his hands on the slick tiles of the shower stall, his breathing coming in short, quick pants.

"Clark!" Caitlin called out as she came barreling up the stairs, tossing her backpack into Clark's room. She heard the sound of the shower and opened the bathroom door. A wave of boiling steam hit her, the temperature so hot it nearly suffocated her and instant sweat broke out under her grey sweater. Jerking the curtain back, her eyes widened at the sight of her trembling boyfriend. "Clark what happened? You just took off!"

Clark cried out loudly as the curtain pulled back, and then relaxed when he saw it was Caitlin. Despite the scalding temperature of the water, he was still shivering. "I know, I'm sorry. Can you . . . just give me a minute? Please?"

"All...all right." Caitlin forced herself to take a deep breath. She pulled the curtain gently this time and left the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Going into Clark's room, she sat down on the bed folding her denim-covered legs under her. She too trembled and the sight of Clark so obviously rattled did little to comfort her.

Clark came into the room a few minutes later, a towel wrapped around his waist and his hair still dripping. He spared Caitlin a brief wide-eyed glance before he went to his closet and began to go through his clothes like a man who wasn't really sure where he was or what he was doing.

She rose from the bed and came up behind him, gently wrapping her arms around his waist. She closed her eyes and pressed her cheek to his back. "What's going on Clark? Why did you just leave like that?" Caitlin asked quietly.

"I don't know . . . . I'm sorry." He pulled down a red plaid overshirt and then went to his dresser for a pair of faded blue jeans and a white tee-shirt. After slipping on some clean underwear, he pulled on his jeans and shirt. "I just felt . . . sick or something."

Caitlin turned him around and took a hold of his hands. "You think that what Jor-El said..." She trailed off, gazing into Clark's worried face.

"I don't know!" Clark cried, and pulled his hands away. "I just felt like something is wrong but I have no clue to what it might be! It really-" Clark suddenly broke off as his eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open in a wounded gasp. His throat worked, and for a moment, he looked like an animal caught in some horrible trap.

"Clark?" Caitlin saw his gaze and put both hands on either side of his face. "What is it?" She gave him a little shake as she asked, her heart pounding in her ears. "Clark! Talk to me!" She said firmly, her voice rose in a near shout.

Clark choked out a sound that was so foreign to Caitlin's ears that it took her a moment to realize that the sound had been a word, but a word spoken in a language so alien to her that she'd been unable to recognize it as such.

"What? What did you say?" She cupped his head more firmly between her hands, bringing it down so she could peer into his wild eyes. "What did you say?"

Clark made the sound again, and although her brain registered phonetics, she couldn't even begin to spell it out to herself. Finally, Clark exhaled harshly with a panicked gasp, and his eyes focused on Caitlin again. "Caitlin . . . Jor-El was right. Come on . . . you've got to pack. Right now. I'll take you home and help you, and then you and my folks can be gone by morning."

"Gone? Gone where?" Caitlin shook her head, her throat growing tight. "Clark I don't understand the word you said, what did it mean and what did it have to do with Jor-El?"

"There's no time for questions, Caitlin. Look, I want you to get your stuff together, and I'm going to call Lex. Maybe he can help me get you guys somewhere safe." Clark began opening dresser drawers at random as the phone rang downstairs. A moment later, his mom called up the stairs. "Clark! Telephone! It's Chloe!"

He slammed the drawer closed and ran his fingers through his wet hair. "Mom, can you take a message?"

"She says it's important! Come on, I'm not a secretary! Pick it up!" Martha replied, and Clark stalked out into the hallway where a white push button phone sat on a small table. He picked up the receiver. "Got it!" He called down the stairs, and put the phone to his ear. "Chloe, I'd love to chat but now is really not a good time."

"I'm sorry if its not a good time but this is important..."She paused a moment and took a deep breath. "Clark...have you seen Lana?" The worry in Chloe's normally strong tone made Clark's heart sink into his stomach. "She's been missing since yesterday afternoon."

"Lana's missing?" He repeatedly numbly. "Chloe . . . . are you sure?"

"Yeah..."Chloe replied, her voice trembling with tears. "Sheriff Adams found the loft apartment a wreck, Lana's stuff thrown everywhere and so was the room we shared at my house. They don't know what happened to her Clark. They don't have a clue."

"Okay. Take it easy Chloe, we'll find her. I'll be right there. Don't go anywhere, just . . . stay right there. Bye." Clark hung up the phone and went back into his room, his head whirling. Caitlin gazed up at him, and he shook his head a little. "Lana's missing. No one's seen her since yesterday afternoon."

"Missing?" Caitlin's eyes grew round at the news and she sat down on the corner of the bed. "I...I didn't even notice that she wasn't in school." She raised her eyes to look at Clark. "Could that be what you were feeling?"

"No." Said Clark tersely, and he looked down at her. "You're not staying in Smallville one second longer Caitlin, and neither are my folks. Something's very wrong here, and until I can find out what it is, I don't want you to be here. Understand?"

She shook her head slowly, her sandy brown hair shifting with the motion. "No I don't understand and I don't want to leave you." Caitlin got up from the bed. "How can you ask me to just go, knowing what Jor-El said! He said I had to face whatever this is! We both have to face it Clark!"

"Its not for you to face!" Clark shouted back, his voice going deep and almost hoarse. "Whatever's happening here is because of me and I have to find out what that is! Please Caitlin, do as I tell you!"

Caitlin felt her tears start to well up in her eyes and swallowed down a lump in her throat. "I'll do what you want Clark." She whispered, and then wrapped her arms around him pressing her face to his t-shirt.

Clark hugged her back, wishing that sometimes he could be exactly as he appeared to everybody else. "It'll be okay." He whispered, and kissed the top of her head. "It won't be forever . . . . just for a few days, until I can figure out what's going on around here and while I try and find Lana. Okay?"

"Your parents won't buy that explanation Clark. They won't want to leave." She took a deep breath then raised her wet face to peer into his. "I know they won't."

"No more than you do, but I think you'll all be in danger if you stay." Clark replied, completely unaware that the word he'd spoken in his home world language before had been that very word- danger.

Caitlin stared out at through the dark tinted window at the rolling scenery, taking a deep breath. Her thoughts troubled, she tried to distract herself by studying the farmlands that stretched all the way to the horizon. She wasn't alone, the limo packed with three other occupants, Jonathan and Martha Kent and Lex Luthor. "Where are we going?" She asked, her voice scarcely above a whisper.

"Someplace where you'll be safe." Lex replied as he raised the partition between the driver and the back of the limo. "Don't worry Caitlin, it's only for a few days. You'll be back in Smallville by Friday, I guarantee it."

"You guarantee it..."Caitlin repeated, her gaze met Lex's face briefly, but his small smile gave her no comfort. She then turned back towards the window. But can you guarantee Clark will be there on Friday? Can you guarantee this enemy of his people wouldn't have destroyed him by then?...Jor-El told you that you had to face this thing the same as Clark...Without you.. he might die... Her eyes closed and a wave of terror washed over her. "Stop the limo!" Caitlin bolted upright, scooting to the edge of the big plush seat bench.

Lex looked up, his expression mildly startled. "What?"

"I said to stop this limo! Now!" Caitlin shouted as she glared at Lex, her light eyes burning. "You're not deaf Lex now do it!"

"All right, Caitlin." Replied Lex, his demeanor as composed as ever. "But we can't stop here. We're in the middle of nowhere. When we get to the next town, we can stop there."

"Fine! Just stop me someplace so I can get back to Smallville." Caitlin picked up the red backpack at her feet and rummaged through it; she took out some cash and leaned back on the seat as she stuffed it into the front of her black jeans.

Jonathan sighed deeply. "Caitlin, you can't go back. You promised Clark that you'd come with us so you'd be safe."

"Safe? While he faces..." She stopped herself a moment biting her lips. "I can't... I can't let him do this on his own." Caitlin looked at both of Clark's parents; they sat on the far side of the lush limo just in front of the divider. "I'm sorry but I have to break that promise."

"Caitlin, did it ever occur to you that your presence back in Smallville right now might do Clark more harm than good?" Lex asked softly. "I don't know what he thinks he has to face, but if it was important enough to send away the people he loves, than it has to be dangerous. Not just for him, but for all of you."

"You don't understand Lex...I wish I could explain it to you but I can't." Caitlin swallowed hard and shook her head. "I love Clark and I can't just leave him right now."

"I know what he asked me Lex and I know what I promised but...I have to go back." She said nothing more, just leaned back against the seat and once more turned her gaze out the window.

"All right Caitlin, if that's what you want." Lex told her, knowing there was no use arguing with someone who obviously wasn't going to change her mind.

Several hours after Clark saw his parents and Caitlin off in Lex's limo; he left the farm and sped to Chloe's house to search for clues as to the whereabouts of Lana Lang. That nervous, edgy feeling still niggled at him, but Lana's vanishing had dulled its razor edge with worry. Who had abducted Lana and why?
Determined to find answers, he knocked on Chloe's front door. "Chloe?" He called. "It's me!" He knocked again, and the door suddenly swung open. Clark stepped back uneasily, and then craned his neck to peer around the half-open door. "Chloe?" He called again, and walked inside. There was no answer except for his own echo, and Clark frowned as he climbed the stairs to the room Chloe and Lana shared.

It was in a shambles, as Chloe had claimed. Books and papers were strewn everywhere, and the bathroom was a jumble of shampoo and conditioner bottles, some of them leaking. Clark picked one of them up and then tossed it back down again, frowning. He had told Chloe to stay at the house, so why had she left? A quick sweep of the rooms with his X-ray vision confirmed what Clark already knew- Chloe was nowhere in any of these rooms. Clark jogged back downstairs and stood in the empty den, thinking.

"Clark . . . "

Clark's head came up, his green eyes wide, his head cocked. "Lana?" He asked softly, straining his ears. Had he heard her calling him or had he imagined it?

"Clark . . . . help me, please . . . . "

"Lana!" Clark shouted as he heard her voice again, and raced outside. There was no sign of her. Clark turned in a wide circle. "Lana, where are you?"

"I'm trapped . . . . trapped in the caves . . . . Clark please help me, they're going to hurt me!"

"Who?" Clark yelled. "Who's going to hurt you?"

Lana's disembodied voice shrieked his name in agony and Clark needed no further urging. He jumped into super-speed and was at the cave in a matter of seconds. He sped underground and glanced around. "Lana? I'm here! Where are you? Lana please, answer me!"

"Right here..." A dark figure stepped out of the shadows then and Clark turned in the direction of the voice. He saw Lana and his green eyes widened, the relief to see her fading into confusion. "Lana?"
"Yes Clark...its me." Lana's steps slow and purposeful, she approached him. Her long dark hair had been cropped to her jaw line, the locks straight as a ruler. She wore a gold two-piece outfit that resembled a metallic bikini, the material barely covered her and her skin had a sheen to it as if the smooth surface had been dusted with gold powder.

A cold smile came to her face at his astonishment. "You look surprised Clark."

"Lana?" Clark took two steps toward her. "Are you all right? I heard you calling for me . . . . are you hurt?"

"Hurt?" Lana chuckled as she paced in front of Clark. Something about her gaze made him stop short of hugging her. He simply hung back a moment watching her walk back and forth. With a laugh that didn't have one hint of humor in it, Lana suddenly stopped and turned to face the teenager. "I've never been better." Her jovial expression suddenly faded, like smoke from a snuffed out candle. Raising her chin she brought her right hand up, her long fingernails painted a polished gold, a beam of pure green suddenly shot out from the palm of her hand striking Clark in the chest.

Clark's heart seemed to stop dead in his chest as kryptonite- somehow turned into pure energy- hit him square and knocked him to the cavern floor. He writhed under its blinding pain, his eyes wide, his muscles spasming. "Lana!" He gasped. "Lana, what-"

"Lana?" She chuckled cruelly. "Lana is dead. My name is Domminus." Domminus walked casually over to the sprawled teenager and looked down at him, tipping her head to one side. "Do you know who I am Clark?"

The sound of the word struck terror into Clark's very being for reasons he didn't understand. Danger . . . a part of his mind whispered, and he looked up at the girl who he had loved for so long. He began to tremble, and all at once, everything clicked smoothly into place. Lana's disappearance, his nervousness, his father's warning. "You're the enemy Jor-El told me about!"

Domminus turned around, the symbol that had been branded into Lana's skin visible to Clark. "Recognize this?"

"It . . . " Clark swallowed hard as the after-effects of the energized kryptonite swam in his blood, weakening him. "It's the Kryptonian symbol for enemy."

"Enemy....what a formidable word...." Domminus stared down at Clark and tipped her head to one side. "Allow me to tell you what your kind did to my people. They nearly wiped us out!" She raised her chin again, the look on her face one of arrogance. "But now...now we can begin again..."

"I'm not going to help you!" Clark groaned. "And Jor-El told me that it was the Torg that nearly destroyed the Kryptonian people!" He looked up at the stranger who looked back at him through Lana's eyes. "I want my friend back!"

"You cannot have her, she belongs to me." Domminus tapped one long fingernail to her chin, pondering. She then raised her hand and dragged that one nail down as if on a chalkboard.

As if by magic, Clark's over shirt popped open and the white tee shirt beneath it was cut in half as if by invisible scissors. The two halves fell away, revealing Clark's bare chest. He dug his heels into the dirt of the cavern floor and pushed himself backward, the first sparks of fear burning brightly in his stomach. "Let her go! She hasn't done anything to hurt you, and she has nothing to do with what happened to your people!"

Domminus raised her right hand again, another green beam coming out, once again striking Clark in the chest. She then crossed her arms over her chest then threw them out dramatically. Clark's arms and legs mirrored her actions, the teenager now lying spread eagle, his limbs frozen to the ground by some unseen energy. "Much better..." Domminus then stood over Clark's hips and slashed her hands in the air, the front of Clark's jeans shredding. Then with a flick of the wrist, the material jerked off of his body leaving him in his blue briefs.

Clark's muscles twitched frantically, seeking escape from the paralysis that had suddenly swept over his body. "What . . .what are you doing?" He cried.

"Preparing you of course." She crouched down, her legs straddling Clark's lean hips. Leaning over, Domminus' tongue slipped from between her lips and lapped at Clark's chest in long slow strokes.

"Uh!" Clark gasped at the feel of her tongue on his skin, almost hot and very thick, and he squeezed his eyes shut as memories he couldn't possibly have tumbled over one another in his mind. Kryptonian men . . . his friends . . . . writhing in agony under green rays of energy, being dragged away and used by the Torg women . . . . The Torg, whose race was dominated by the female of the species, spawning children of strength and evil who threatened the whole future of his planet. Corpses of men, their flesh eaten away, their bellies emptied, left behind to rot as the Torg women went on to new victims . . . . death, destruction . . . .

"NO!" Clark cried as his father's memories flooded his mind, and knew he had been warned too late. He tried to pull away from Domminus, but he was helpless. "Look . . . "He gasped, "We're both superior beings, you don't have to do this!"

"Oh but you're wrong Clark..." Domminus leaned closer, hovering over his sweaty, pale face. "I have to do this for the sake of my people." She dropped her mouth to his giving him a long, deep kiss.

"Mmmmmnn!" Clark cried, his eyes wild as her lips captured his tongue. It was more like being tasted than being kissed, and Clark felt panic beating in his breastbone like a frightened bird. His father's memories were vivid and Clark didn't doubt them . . . but could this Torg woman possibly fulfill her appetites while in Lana's body?

Domminus stopped kissing his mouth and trailed her lips along the side of his face, then down his neck. Her teeth nipped away at the smooth flesh with groans of satisfaction.

Clark gritted his teeth as tiny sparks of sensation went off down the length of his imprisoned body. "Lana please, if you can hear me, don't let this happen! Stop her, please!"

"She's gone Clark, she cannot help you." Domminus then scooted back, down his long legs, her face now above his groin she ran her fingers over the bulge between his thighs, smiling. "My my...such a perfect specimen, so much like your father was Clark."

"Jor-El!" Clark blurted, his eyes wide with disbelief. "You . . . he . . . "Clark shook his head a little. "No! That's not possible!"

"Of course we did Clark..." She then stretched back out over him and cupped his chin, turning his face to one side. "I was defeated, and sentenced by the council of elders to be banished to the furthest reaches of the universe. Before I did, however, I knew I had to save the life of my precious child. I freed him of his physical form, and carried his essence with me. I knew that Jor-El and his woman had recently made a child together, and as I was led from the chamber, I touched that child as I passed the woman, Lara, transferring the soul of my son into the soul of their child, where he would sleep until his time came to rule the galaxy. It has taken me thousands of years to return, but I always vowed that I would come to find my child." Domminus' eyes glittered as she stared down at Clark. "That child's name was Kal-El."

Clark stared up at her in disbelief as he thought of his alter-ego, Kal-El. Evil. Greedy. Highly sexual, with criminal tendencies. A ruler. The son of a Kryptonian Emperor and an evil queen. "No." He whimpered, and Domminus bared teeth that had suddenly become pointed and gleaming white.

"Yes. And now, I take my revenge. I take my revenge on the last son of Krypton, he who destroyed my son Kal-El! I will take his seed, and make my people live again!"

"Kal El . . . . was evil. He had to be destroyed." Clark panted.

"He was my child! He was born to RULE this pathetic world!" Domminus sank her fingernails into Clark's face, staring down at him with pure loathing in her eyes. "But...he will live again! And when I give him your body... he will choose Caitlin for his mate!"

Panic yammered in Clark's mind. "No!" He shouted. "You leave her out of this! If you touch her, I'll kill you!"

"You can do nothing to prevent this, Son of Krypton!" She slid back once more to Clark's pelvis and gripped his blue briefs, tearing them away with a quick tug. Now that the boy was totally nude, she took in his young body with an appreciative eye and gave a pleased sigh. Then, lowering her face, she planted gentle kisses on his manhood, then took it into her mouth and began to suckle at it.

Clark gasped so deeply that for a moment every rib could be plainly seen underneath the skin of his ribcage. He hips arched upwards in a completely involuntary motion, and he left go of the gasp with a sobbing cry that echoed off the cave walls like the cry of a lunatic. His armed and legs thrummed, yet he couldn't move them. He gritted his teeth as his head tipped backwards swiftly and his Adam's apple stood out in pained relief. He felt like he was being consumed.

Domminus brushed her tongue around the hardening flesh in her mouth, feeling it quiver under her tongue. She closed her eyes and lowered her head, allowing the thickening shaft to slide down her silky throat.

Clark whined through his gritted teeth as the torture continued. It went on and on, and Clark could feel her fangs, sharper than a razor's edge, scrape against his skin. His muscles trembled with restraint, and then finally he could keep silent no longer. He took another deep breath, and it turned into a plea. "Oh God . . . . please!"

Releasing the turgid flesh, she then licked her lips. "Such a tasty boy you are...no wonder this human liked you." She then rose up on her knees her hands working to pull her outfit off, the metal clanging as it hit the cave floor. Domminus then shifted over to once more straddle his hips. Tipping forward a moment, her hand reached beneath her and wrapped around the straining erection. Lowering herself slowly, her eyes rolled back in heady pleasure as her head tipped back. "Ohhh yes Clark..."

Clark's eyes were like those of an animal caught in some terrible trap from which it knew it would never escape. "No!" He screamed as his sanity trembled and threatened to shatter. Caitlin's face suddenly filled his mind and he screamed again as if she was watching. "No, please! Please don't do this!" Even as he begged the woman straddling him to stop, however, he could feel his body starting to react. Pleasure was flowing all through his body, and the organ that depended from the base of his kidneys began to throb. The throbbing there matched that of those in his groin, and Clark suddenly understood just what that organ's function was.

Domminus shook her head, her breathing growing ragged as she rose and fell on the helpless teenager, her moans of pleasure accompanying each grind of her hips. She leaned forward, palms flat on either side of his prone form as one hand slid beneath his back. She began to massage the twitching organ, and then pressed her hips more firmly onto his, the thrusts more urgent. "Yes Clark...I need you."

"It hurts!" Clark cried as small rivers of pain flowed through him, crossing the rivers of pleasure at a thousand different points in his lower body. Domminus pressed her fingers hard against the small of his back, forcing his hips to arch upward. His eyes became distant and fixed as he battled against the climax that was building inside him.

"You can't resist me Clark...now give me what I want!" She stopped pressing on the organ and leaned forward, lapping at his sweaty chest sucking up the sweat and salt with relish. Her mouth closed over a nipple and she suckled on it as if it were a rare delicacy.

Clark groaned as he was squeezed again and again, and he closed his eyes against the sensation. A terrible buzzing began somewhere deep inside of him and began to spread in a liquid rush to every nerve in his body. A moment too late, Clark recognized it for what it was. "No . . . . no . . . . . . uh!" Clark gasped loudly as his body seemed to meld with the alien queen's as his climax poured from him in helpless spurts. It only seemed to spur Domminus on, and Clark yelled in pain as she bit into his nipple and drew blood. Finally, it was over and Clark lay still and spent underneath her, the only sign of life being the tears that spilled from his eyes and coursed down his cheeks.

Sighing contently, Domminus raises her head, a smile on her lips as she pressed a kiss to Clark's mouth. "That is one of the many pleasures we will share Clark." She climbed off of him and stepped back, then raised her arm straight out. A gold beam shot from her fingertip and wrapped around Clark like a snake. It lifted him into the air and suspended him there, and Domminus snapped her wrists sharply. Long thin ropes of energized kryptonite sprayed from her fingertips as Clark's body spun in the air slowly.

"Sweet dreams..." It wrapped around Clark like a spider web and within moments, it encased him in an emerald green cocoon. Domminus smiled as she hung the cocoon from an outcrop of rock on the cavern ceiling. "We've only just begun..."

Lex sighed softly as he stared out the hotel window at a brightly painted sign that said "Welcome to Roaring Springs!" Under that was the slogan "Where We Treat You Like Family!"

"All things considered, I'd rather be in Smallville." He muttered as he listened to Caitlin frantically throwing things into a suitcase behind him. Finally, he turned to her. "Caitlin, I can't let you go back."

"I don't recall you having a choice Lex." Caitlin finished her packing and slammed down her blue suitcase and locked it with a loud click. She gripped it by the handle and lifted it from the queen sized bed. "I'll be fine."

"I could refuse to turn the limo around."

Caitlin's light eyes flashed and her mouth tightened. A thousand things went through her mind, all of them about Clark. "And I could catch the bus back to Smallville." She said with a frown.

"That would take days." Lex answered in his usual calm tone. "By then who knows what might happen to Clark."

The young woman's small hand came up and slapped Lex's cheek, the sound loud in the small room. Caitlin's palm stung as she touched the wounded hand to her mouth in shock.

Lex only blinked, his gray-blue eyes slightly hooded. After a moment the right side of his mouth quirked up slightly. "Feel better?" He asked.

"Oh God Lex...I'm... I'm sorry." Caitlin swallowed hard at her angered reaction and shook her head. "I don't know what came over me I just...I just don't know what to do about Clark."

"That's all right Caitlin. I've been slapped by more women in my lifetime than I can possibly count." He said ruefully as he touched his branded cheek. "That's quite a backhand you've got there." He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. "I know you're worried about Clark. I am too. So are the Kents. I also trust Clark's judgment, though. If he sent you away, there has to be a pretty good reason."

"There is good reason Lex but I don't think he should be facing something dangerous alone. I care too much for him to leave him stranded." She put a hand over the one on her shoulder. "Take me back to Smallville Lex...please."

"You're not going alone." A voice said from behind them, and Caitlin turned to see Jonathan and Martha standing in the doorway. Jonathan had a stubborn expression on his face that Lex has seen on his best friend more than once, and not for the first time he reflected that family similarities weren't based solely on blood relations.

"All of us are going back?" A coy smile came to Lex's face. "I was wondering when you were going to change your mind." He stuck his hands in the pockets of his charcoal grey pants and motioned to the limo. "Come on then...our chariot awaits."

Martha's expression was a study in relief. "Thank you, Lex."

Clark awoke from a doze filled with pain and heat and fear. His eyelids felt sticky and stiff, and he forced them open with difficulty. His surroundings came into focus slowly, and he realized he was still in the caverns, and enshrouded in some kind of sticky green mass of energy strings. He tried to struggle, but his arms were crossed in front of his chest and bound tightly there. The webbing had no give at all; it was tighter than a sausage casing. His vision was only partially obstructed, for his nose and mouth and eyes had been left mostly unfettered. He gazed down, and saw that he was hanging nearly fifteen feet above the cavern floor.

"Help me." Clark whispered as he spun in slow circles from the long green cable that suspended him from the cave ceiling. He remembered what had happened, and what awaited him in the near future. He had sent his loved ones away, Lana was gone, possibly forever, and he was at the mercy of a predatory, carnivorous she-alien who was going to use his seed to create an entire race of evil super-beings before she devoured him. Jor-El's memories had haunted his uncomfortable doze, and as he slept, he had seen the Torg's true form.

"You are awake..." Domminus returned, her bare feet crunching with each step she took from the dead leaves that covered the cave floor. She snapped her fingers, and the cord that Clark hung from dropped even lower, allowing her to stare the trapped teenager in the face. "My my Clark what's the matter? Finding your new accommodations less than comfortable?" She glided her nails along the green web, the sound like Velcro opening.

"I . . . I know what you really are." Clark whispered, the cocoon's throbbing glow making him weak and sick.

"Really? And just what am I Clark?" She ran her hands down the cocoon, and despite its tight webbing she could still make out his hard body beneath it.

"You . . . you're a monster. You slaughtered half a generations' worth of my father's people . . . . you and your children." Clark gritted his teeth as Domminus stroked his chest through the webbing. "You mate, and then you eat."

Domminus couldn't help but grin. "Yes Clark I do...and you're next on the menu." She dragged her fingernail down the webbing over his face and kissed him, her tongue sliding through her parted lips to snake in Clark's mouth. She groaned softly as she tasted him, her tongue sliding down his palate before emerging. With that, she resealed the webbing then stepped back. "I suggest you sleep more, you're going to need it."

Clark glared at her with exhausted, furious eyes. "I'm going to kill you."

Her mouth tightened at that and Domminus raised her head. "We'll see who kills who Clark." A snap of her fingers and the webbing yanked him back up to suspend in mid air. "Goodbye Clark." Domminus whispered as she watched the cocoon swing back and forth like a pendulum.

Dusk was giving away to a thick Kansas night when Lex, Caitlin and The Kents returned to the Kent Farm. With instructions to the limo driver to take everyone's things to the mansion, Lex dismissed the limo and watched it pull away as Jonathan ducked into the barn and returned shortly with four heavy-duty flashlights. He handed them out and paused to look at Martha. His lips tightened into a firm line. "Martha, sweetheart . . . . maybe . . . "

Martha raised an eyebrow as she took a flashlight from her husband. "Jonathan Kent, if you're thinking I'm just going to sit and at home waiting..." She shook her head, a determined look in her blue eyes. "I'm going..." She stated, plainly and firmly in a tone that forbade argument as she headed out of the barn, shrugging on a jean jacket over her sweater.

Lex favored Martha with one of his rare grins and Jonathan opened his mouth and then closed it again. "All right then." He said softly, and turned to Caitlin. "Caitlin, are you sure we'll find Clark in the caves?"

"Not really Mr. Kent, but it seems to make sense." Her eyes averted to Lex a moment and she cleared her throat as she moved closer to the tall man. "That's where we were led." Caitlin put on her own black leather jacket; she rubbed her arms as if cold but the shiver in her petite form had little to do with the cool autumn air.

"Right." Jonathan said with a hard edge to his voice. "Let's go." Nudging Lex aside just slightly, he took the lead and headed north through his own fields, where a path through the thin woods would take them to the caves. "Be careful." He said in a low voice as four broad beams of light bobbed through the field and ended at a slight copse of trees. "The path narrows and it gets a little spooky at night-" A thin finger poked Jonathan in the back as he spoke and he whirled around, his eyes wide and his hand raised. He grabbed at the finger, and there was a dry cracking sound. Jonathan shined his light on his own fingers, and found himself with a handful of broken branch.

Martha stared at the ground, but she could feel her cheeks growing hot with amusement and was grateful for the darkness. Jonathan threw the twigs down and rubbed his hand on his jacket as he cleared his throat. "Come on."

Caitlin came after Martha and Lex brought up the rear. He seemed perfectly at ease in eerie darkness and it made Caitlin shudder. She tightened an arm around herself as she walked, and Jor-El's warning played over and over in her mind like a broken record.

The path narrowed even more tightly, and Jonathan felt it steepen. A moment later, the cave entrance loomed before them and Jonathan began to swing his flashlight in all directions. "Clark?" He called. "Son? Are you down here?"

"What if ... what if he can't answer?" Caitlin asked as she stood beside Clark's father, and her face suddenly grew pale at the prospect of Clark being injured or worse. "I think we should just go in."

"All right." Jonathan answered softly as Lex came up to stand beside him. He and the young billionaire stepped forward together, unconsciously shielding the two women.

The cave was blacker than the moonless night outside, and Jonathan felt a shudder twist through him at the thought of Clark being trapped here again. "Clark!" He called out, his voice sharp with worry. "Clark if you're in here son, please answer me!"

Caitlin swallowed hard as she looked around. She shined her light around the painted walls. The beam passed something green dangling from the ceiling, and a gasp tore from her throat. "Oh God!" She heard herself blurt out.

"What is it?" Jonathan asked, swinging his light around to cross hers. Another flash of green bounced off the light and Jonathan felt his heart all but pause in his chest as he ran the beam up the length of the oblong green cocoon and finally illuminated his son's face, partially covered in green strings. His mouth worked, and Lex's harsh gasp beside him finally broke his paralysis. "CLARK!" He roared, and a moment later Martha echoed his cry as her beam of light also found its mark.

"Oh my God! Jonathan we have to get him down from there!" Her voice suddenly hoarse with emotion, she looked around in a panic. "What can we do? How do we get up there?"

"I don't know . . . . " Jonathan's own voice broke with fear as he gazed up at his child. Clark's eyes were closed but his face was taut with pain. "Maybe I can bring a ladder . . . . "

"Balance me on your shoulders." Caitlin said in a small whisper, her breathing ragged as she stared up at Clark, her pulse hammering in her chest.

"Jonathan please let her try." Martha pleaded as Jonathan opened his mouth to argue. He conceded with a short nod and stooped down so Caitlin could sit on his shoulders. He rose back up with only a slight difficulty, and Lex watched with concern.

"Be careful, Mr. Kent."

"Just keep that light on Clark, Lex." Jonathan replied, and then said to Caitlin, "Stand up, but just be careful. We don't know what that stuff is."

"I'll be careful." Jonathan raised his hands and Caitlin gripped his wrists, using them for balance as first with one leg, then the other she stood up on the tall blond man's shoulders. Her knees felt like Jell-O and she didn't dare look down but this height put her about a foot away from the cocoon. Taking a deep breath she let go of Jonathan's hands and bent her knees then pushed off of the shoulders she stood on and managed to grab the bottom of the pod that housed Clark. The force caused it to swing back and forth like a tire hanging from a tree limb, but it held her weight and with great care Caitlin climbed up it, the webbing like stiff cotton candy between her clenched fingers.

"I'm coming Clark." Caitlin whispered as she made her way up to the head staring through the fibrous substance to see Clark's face. Her legs wrapped around the pod to allow her hands to be free. "Clark?" She swallowed hard, the paleness of his skin and his twisted expression told her he was in pain. "Clark!" Caitlin said more firmly, hoping to awaken him.

"Uh?" Clark questioned softly as he raised his head with obvious difficulty. His eyes appeared red and swollen, and tiny green veins were etching their way across the normally clear white corneas. "Wha . . . " The muted green eyes finally lifted to Caitlin's and seemed to clear slightly. "C-Caitlin?" His voice was rougher than sandpaper.

"Yeah Clark...its me." She tried to smile but it didn't quite touch her eyes. "I'm not the only one here, so is Lex and your parents. We're going to try and get you out of here." Caitlin touched his face as best she could, she tried to tear away the webbing but it refused to give. "Clark what is this? I can't rip it open!"

Clark cried out in pain as she tugged at his prison, his eyes going wide and hurt.

"Oh God! I'm sorry!" Caitlin's eyes grew wet and she cupped his face. "What do I do Clark? How do I get you out of this?"

"I . . . I don't think you can." Clark's breathing was labored, as if he were breathing through broken glass. "Caitlin, get my parents and Lex out of here. Don't . . . don't let them see me."

"They can't see you; I was the only one who could climb up here." Caitlin wiped her face, the tears flowing free as she saw the intense pain that her boyfriend was in. "There has to be way to get you out of here."

Clark's eyes roved away from hers. "I'm sorry." He whispered. "I'm sorry, Caitlin. I couldn't stop it." The long sable lashes swept down in agony. "You have to get out of here. Please, you're in danger. All of you. Caitlin, remember your promise."

"No! No Clark I can't!" She put both hands to his pained face. "I can't leave you like this! I won't leave you like this!"

From the cavern floor, Lex looked up at his friend. His mind spun frantically, and he glanced over at Martha. "We need a plan of action, Mrs. Kent." He said crisply. "This isn't helping, and Clark is obviously ill."

Martha nodded, hearing the two teenagers talking. "Maybe...maybe we should go back to the farm and figure out what to do."

Lex nodded, although he could clearly see the pain in her eyes. Leaving her only son alone in the darkness of these caverns was obviously distressing, but he knew it would be harder to convince Caitlin. Martha leaned over to Jonathan and whispered, and the blond man's face contorted briefly even as he nodded. He, too, understood Lex's urgency. "Caitlin!" He called up to the girl gently. "Caitlin, we can't just stand here . . . . we need a plan! Come on . . . "He waved at her, motioning for her to get back on his shoulders.

"No!" Caitlin called down to Jonathan, then she shook her head. "I'm not leaving him!" Her legs began to lose their grip and she tried to get purchase once again, her fingers digging into the cocoon's hull. This made Clark groan and he wiggled, his movements caused Caitlin's legs to lose their grip and she started to slide, her finger catching again at the bottom. She gasped, her legs dangling free, and Caitlin looked down in panic at the distance to the cave floor.

"It's okay honey, I've got you!" Jonathan called as he grabbed her calves and tipped her forward, his hands catching her waist as she slid down and into his arms.

Clark gave a frightened, wavering cry as Jonathan's flashlight tipped down and left him in darkness. "No! Caitlin . . . . please don't leave me!"

"Clark!" Caitlin fought against Jonathan, as she tried to get back on his shoulders. "Let me get back up there! Let me stay with him!" She wiggled, shoving her small hands against his chest.

"Listen to me!" Jonathan said firmly, taking her by the shoulders and shaking her a little. "We are going to help Clark. Okay? But first we have to think of a way to get him down from there. The only way we can do that is to leave him there-"

"But..."Caitlin shook her head, her eyes rimmed with tears. "We can't just leave him like this! He's hurting!" She stared up at the cocoon and reached out towards it. "You guys go make the plan! I'll stay with him until you get back."

A strained creaking noise echoed off the cavern walls, and Clark cried out again. Lex craned his neck, shone his flashlight on Clark's encased form, and saw that he was struggling weakly. His struggles had begun to turn him in slow circles, and Lex could see that each movement caused his friend intense pain. His own stomach clenched. "Your presence here is only making him panic, Caitlin. The best thing we can do now is leave him and let him relax while we think of a plan to free him."

"I'm not going to leave him!" Caitlin's anger renewed she tried to climb back up Jonathan, determined to use him as a human ladder. The older man's face cringed in irritation as he simply gripped the girl around the waist and slung her over his shoulder like a sack of flour. He knew they had no choice but to leave Clark here and began to make his way to the cave's entrance, ignoring the tears and pleading of the young woman he held captive. As they emerged back out to the forest, Caitlin broke down. Jonathan slid her down his body, carrying her as she clung to his neck, her tears wetting his skin.

Martha, trudging along beside her husband, cried as well, but silently. Lex followed behind, his face a careful mask of tightly controlled emotion. Inside, he was screaming as the image of his friend turning slowly in that terrible green cocoon burned brightly in his mind.

Once the tired, unhappy group reached the farmhouse, Lex offered the hospitality of the Luthor mansion to Caitlin and the Kents, but was politely refused. Jonathan and Martha, shaken by what they had seen, now needed the comfort and security of the place they had called home for so long. Lex, who didn't want to go back to mansion alone, instead accepted Martha's invitation of a hot cup of coffee and the spare room. They would put their heads together to find a way to free Clark together. Now the four of them sat in The Kents big spacious kitchen, sipping coffee.

"Whatever has Clark trapped in that cave obviously isn't of this world." Lex said, thinking of the parasites that had attacked Chloe and Pete down in those caves several years ago.

"You're probably right about that Lex." Caitlin muttered as she had a sip of the warm coffee. Her hand trembled slightly as she raised the cup to her lips. She closed her eyes at the soothing liquid flooded her mouth and she drank it down, though it did little to ease her troubled mind and tormented heart. "I think...you'll all have to excuse me. I'm really not very good company right now." She rose out of her chair and went through the living room, then descended the stairs, her footsteps heavy.

Martha watched her leave, her heart aching. "I didn't want to make her leave Clark, but we didn't have choice." She said, and Jonathan stood up.

"I'll go talk to her." He said, and headed for the stairs. Once he was in the upstairs hallway, he saw that only one door, the door to Clark's room, was closed. Jonathan sighed and knocked gently. "Caitlin, can I come in please?"

"It's your house Mr. Kent." The sound of Caitlin's sniffled and thick voice came through the door.

Jonathan pushed the door open and for one awful moment, the presence of his son hit him so hard that he had to steady himself on the doorjamb. A red and blue checked flannel over shirt that Clark had worn the day before was draped over the foot of the bed, and a scatter of CD's covered his desk. His familiar red backpack sat in the corner, and Jonathan cleared his throat loudly before he addressed the miserably huddled figure curled up on Clark's neatly made bed. "Caitlin . . . . you have to understand why we had to leave Clark behind."

"I know why we left him, but it didn't make it any easier." Caitlin sighed heavily as she wiped her face, her back still turned to the tall man.

"No. It didn't." Jonathan said softly, closing his eyes against the memory of his son crying for help in the darkness. "But we don't know what it is that took him and putting ourselves in danger wouldn't have helped him any."

Caitlin took a shuddering breath, her shoulders slumping. "But the longer he stays there, the more danger Clark is in. We have to find a way to get him out of that cocoon and bring him home."

"We will Caitlin, I swear! If you think I'm just going to stand here let some . . . . thing keep my son prisoner-" Jonathan suddenly broke off with a harsh gasp as something seemed to fill him up from the inside out. The sound made Caitlin turn, and she scrambled off of the bed as Jonathan went pale. His heart . . . . Caitlin thought with dismay, and she put a hand on his arm. "Mr. Kent? Are you all right?" Jonathan's throat worked and his eyes slid closed. Caitlin tried to turn him toward the bed so that he wouldn't fall on the floor, but to her amazement, Jonathan didn't fall. He simply stood there, swaying slightly as if he was asleep on his feet.

"Mr. Kent?" She asked as she gripped his arm tighter, then stared up into his face and laid her hand on his cheek. "Are you all right?" Her hand slid down to his chest over his heart, the thudding against her palm felt strong but fast.

Jonathan opened his eyes as she spoke, and Caitlin backed up with a gasp at what she saw in them. Jonathan Kent was gone, and a stranger stared out of his dark blue eyes. He advanced on her slowly but purposefully, and Caitlin squeaked with fear as her back hit the wall. Jonathan towered over her, and when he spoke next, his voice was deep and rich and full of power. "I am Jor-El of Krypton."

"Jor...Jor-El?" Caitlin swallowed hard, her light eyes wide as she stared at Clark's biological father channeling through his adopted one. "What...what are you doing here?" She asked, so stunned she forgot all about Clark's predicament for a moment. Her heart pounded hard out of fear, so hard she felt lightheaded.

"My son did not heed my warning about The Torg, and now his life is in mortal danger." Jonathan's eyes grew brighter as they stared into Caitlin's frightened face. "Soon The Torg woman will take what she needs from him, and devour him. No human can stop the Torg queen; there is no weapon on earth with which to defeat her."

Caitlin closed her eyes briefly at what Jor-El said, her stomach knotting. "Then how? How can I possibly defeat her and get Clark out of there?"

"There is a way to defeat The Torg queen. When their kind invaded Krypton, our scientists discovered an ancient cure to both the Torg's venom and a way to destroy them. Both lay in the white crystals that Kryptonian men and women use when they join in a holy bonding."

"Crystals?" Caitlin though a moment about what Clark had told her of his time as Kal-El. She raised her head to stare into Jonathan's face. "Like...like the one Kal-El put in the cave?"

"Yes." Jor-El replied. "However . . . for my son to be freed and the Torg to be destroyed, the crystal must be recovered and wielded by his one true mate."

"You mean..."Caitlin swallowed hard. "You mean me?"

"That remains to be seen. Return to the cave. Retrieve the crystal. If you are truly my son's mate, the crystal's power will destroy Domminus and free him of any of her poisons. Move quickly, earth girl, for my son's time grows short. Soon, Domminus will carry his sons in her belly. After that, there is no hope for the last son of Krypton. Make haste!" A bright light shot from Jonathan's wide eyes, and struck Caitlin in the chest, knocking her against the wall. She shrieked and fell to the floor, and Jonathan crumpled into a heap in front of her as the light faded.

Caitlin's chest burned and her back throbbed where she hit the wall. The beam stunned her a moment but she managed to shake it off and crawl over to the fallen man. "Mr. Kent?" She asked as she cupped his face and turned his head towards her. "Mr. Kent?" She said a little firmer this time, lightly patting his cheek.

"Oh my God!" Martha said from the doorway, and then rushed in to kneel by Jonathan's side. "What happened?" At her voice, Jonathan stirred and spoke before his eyes were even open. "Hurry, Caitlin. Do . . . what . . . . Jor-El said."

"Jor-El?" Martha asked, her lovely face darkening in anger. "What did Jor-El do to him?" Caitlin shook her head. "You're better off not knowing. I have to go to the cave Martha and bring Clark home. I think it'd be best if you don't mention this to Lex and just...just wait for us." She saw Martha's protest, touched the older woman's arm, and gave it a squeeze. "Please..."

Martha hesitated, but then the memory of Clark dying a slow death in that green cocoon made her nod. "All right Caitlin. Please, be careful . . . and bring our son home to us."

Caitlin took one last look at both of Clark's parents. Because of her relationship to Clark, she had grown close to them as well. She saw the worry in their faces and tried to make her own expression as reassuring as possible. "I will... I promise."

Clark awoke to find himself in free fall in the darkness of the caverns. His weak cry echoed off the walls of the cave as the cocoon hit the floor in a controlled landing, and Domminus approached him in a circle of light. She was naked, and the light seemed to emanate from her body itself as she knelt next to him and tore open the cocoon with her long sharp nails.

"It is time again, my love... Time for us to join as one." She then skimmed her gold nails up in chest in a long appreciative sigh. "Soon...our children will roam this world."

Clark shook his head weakly. "I won't . . . let you." Even as he spoke the words however, he knew there was little he could do to stop her.

Domminus shook her head slowly, her straight hair shifting around her face. "Fool...the more you say that, the more you make yourself mine." She leaned over then and sniffed the air around his neck then licked at it, savoring the taste of his sweat and fear. "Delicious Clark... what an exquisite meal you will be when you no longer serve a purpose. I look forward to devouring your flesh."

Clark squeezed his eyes shut and tried to hide away in a tiny corner of his mind as Domminus once again started her ministrations to his body. He trembled when she sank down on him again, but this time it was different. He felt like he was being drained of his very soul, and when The Torg woman's climax began, she sank her nails deep into the flesh of Clark's shoulders. He cried out in pain as he was squeezed hard a dozen times in rapid-fire succession, and sucked dry for the second time in twelve hours. Domminus exhaled in a breathy sigh, and grinned down at her captive. "There. It is done." She sighed.

"What- what's done?" Clark groaned, and Domminus stroked his sweaty cheek. "My body has accepted your seed. Once I return to my true form, I will use that seed to bear our children. I can divide my eggs to bear two, four, or even six at one time. Once they come of age, this world will be ours." Domminus leaned down and licked Clark's neck gently. "I am sorry you will not be here to see it, son of Jor-El."

"No-" Clark gasped, and then pain was bursting through his entire body as Domminus sunk her fangs into the soft skin at the juncture of Clark's neck and shoulder.

Her teeth released a poison into his blood, a slow poison that would begin to break down his tissue from the inside out. In a matter of hours, he would simply liquefy with his skin and bones acting merely as a containment vessel. Sighing, Domminus released her hold on the teenager and sat back, licking the blood from her lips with relish. "Soon...it will all be over soon my love."

Clark found that he didn't even have the strength to reply. His breathing slowed and his eyes slid closed. Domminus wrapped him up in the cocoon once more, and hung him up high on the cavern ceiling, out of sight. Once she was done preparing her body to house her children, she would return, eat well, and then rest. The cavern fell into darkness once more as Domminus retreated far into the caverns to return to her true form.

Caitlin had heard every word between Domminus and Clark. Her heart sank as she heard Clark's cries and the creature that inhabited Lana Lang milked another orgasm from him. Her pulse then jumped at the announcement that Domminus could now populate the world with Torg/Kryptonian children. When it was quiet, the young woman made her way inside the dark cave. Armed with nothing but a flashlight, she carefully turned it on. Wherever Domminus had disappeared to, it wasn't anywhere close. She searched the cave with her flashlight and after several minutes, she finally found Clark, cocooned and tucked away high on the ceiling. "I'm going to get you down from there Clark, just hold on." Finding her way around in the darkness, she looked over the symbols that covered the walls. "Where do I go? How do I get to the crystal?" She said to herself, and then came to a dead stop. Something inside her gave a distinct pull and turning towards it, she saw a familiar shield shape cut out of the closest wall. "I know that shape..." Reaching out, Caitlin's fingers brushed it and then a gasp tore from her throat when the symbol lit up and the wall next to it shuddered and began to slide back. A bright blinding light poured out of the opening, strong enough that it lit up the entire cave. She raised her face to it; a strong breeze blew back the ends of her sandy hair as she carefully walked through the open door.

"Jor-El!" Caitlin called out, and then as her eyes adjusted to the change in the light she saw a large stone table, Kryptonian symbols covered it but the clear crystal in the center is what caught her eye. "This? Is this it?"

The table vibrated slightly, as if in reply, and Caitlin stretched her hand out toward the crystal. Her heart ached with fear. What if I'm not the one? She thought. What if its not me, and I can't help Clark or destroy that thing that has him trapped? Then what?

She shook the thoughts from her mind as her fingers gently wrapped around the shield-shaped crystal and plucked it from the slot on the table. Caitlin raised it up; the cut of it reminded her of a diamond, with the exception of the black symbols that etched its shining surface. "I wish I knew what it meant..."
Closing her eyes, she held the crystal in the palm of her hands. "Help me get him out of this...help me destroy her." She whispered as if in a silent prayer then took a deep breath as she turned and exited the hidden room.

The wall slid closed behind her, and Caitlin swallowed a gasp as something huge and scaly emerged from the recesses of the cave. She slipped into a crevice to avoid being seen, her blue-gray eyes wide with fear as she watched the thing pass. It was six-legged and incredibly fast, its chitinous body covered with black gleaming scales. Its head was oblong with four large shiny eyes that were completely round and pitch black. They reflected the cave's interior like mirrors. The creature had huge mandibles that were covered in more scaly armor, but as Caitlin watched, those mandibles reared and the armor raised up to reveal two long black fangs that glistened with venom. It skittered over to the cave wall, and manipulated the green energy threads that held Clark's cocoon. She lowered him to the floor, and a razor-tipped claw at the end of one of the six legs sliced the cocoon open.

"Oh God..."Caitlin muttered as she watched Clark's body spilled from the slashed pod like water from a bucket. Domminus got closer to him, her fangs dripping, and Caitlin's eyes widened. "Stop it! Get away from him!" She cried out as she emerged from her hiding place. Still holding the crystal, she raised her arm straight out, her fingers curling around it.

Domminus turned at the cry, a harsh, loud hiss issuing from her mouth. For one paralyzing moment, Caitlin could see her own reflection in each of the alien's four eyes. Then the creature spoke, and Caitlin heard the voice in her head rather than with her ears. "Human!" The scaly legs scratched and skittered in the dead leaves that covered the cave floor as the creature backed up to stand directly over Clark's prone body, guarding him. "You will not interfere!"

"I won't let you do this..."Caitlin swallowed hard her throat drying up with fear. "I won't let you hurt him anymore!" Her gaze then fell to Clark, long scratches covered his chest and legs, his skin had a pale milk hue to it. "Clark? Clark can you hear me?"

"He has fallen into eternal sleep, child. He breathes, but his body is now little more than a container. Watch as I empty that container, and rid the universe of the ruling line of Krypton, the blood who is responsible for the death of my beloved child, Kal-El!"

"Dead? He's dead?" Caitlin's heart sank into her toes, and a wave of numbing grief washed over her so hard and fast she swayed. Her eyes squeezed shut at the rush of tears that filled them, her extended arm quivering as she lowered it as her breath got stuck in her chest. "No...no he can't be dead!" She whispered to herself, shaking her head slowly. "I'm too late." She crossed her arms over her chest hugging herself, the crystal drawn up close to her body. The whispered words of love Clark had said to her when they shared his bed up in the loft . . . the plans they made together...going to college in the fall...all of it disappeared in a puff of smoke. Another strong jolt of grief rocked her petite frame and she cringed against it. Her knees gave out and she sank partially to the floor, ending up on all fours. "Oh ... God..." Her words came out through gritted teeth, as the pain seemed to linger on and on.

"You are indeed too late, brat! Now go, before I grow curious about the taste of human flesh and you share the fate of the last son of Krypton!"

Caitlin's breathing sped up; the words Jor-El had said swirled in her mind and with them came a sudden peacefulness that encompassed the young woman. She rose to her feet and lifted her chin, a stoic expression on her face as she raised the crystal again. An invisible wind began to blow back the ends of her hair as she stared into Domminus' insect eyes. A droning sound began to echo through the cave, resounding off of the walls as it grew in intensity. The crystal clenched between Caitlin's fingers began to glow, filling the gloominess of the underground cavern with a blinding intensity.

"Your time has come and gone...you have harmed the man I would call my mate...there can be no mercy...for your reckoning is at hand..." Caitlin's voice didn't have its usual lilt, the tone now sounded thick with a deep baritone. A beam of pure white energy shot out from the black writing on the crystal, striking Domminus in the chest.

The creature uttered a terrible buzzing shriek as she was struck a direct blow. Her body twitched and writhed, its armor splitting in a thousand different places. The razor-tipped claws struck out, trying to slice into Clark's flesh, but the white mass of energy was quickly overtaking her body much like the green cocoon in which she had held Clark. She shrieked and screamed, flipping over onto her back as her six legs flayed and jerked, sparks flying her claws scraped against her own exoskeleton. The light grew brighter and brighter and the alien creature suddenly split apart, sending a mass of thick liquid spraying onto the cavern floor. Caitlin watched in horror as six alien embryos jittered briefly beside their dead mother before hissing away into nothing but smoke and liquid. Finally, the light faded, leaving a wide puddle of green liquid on the floor. In the middle of that puddle lay Lana Lang, naked and quite unconscious.

"Gross!" Caitlin went over to where the remains of Domminus lay. She studied the pulsating puddle around Lana, wrinkling her nose. Stepping over it carefully, she crouched down to where Clark lay and tucked a hand under his neck and rested it against her leg. "Clark?" She asked shakily, stroking his pale face. "Clark can you hear me?" No answer came and she raised her face to the cavern's ceiling. "Jor-El! Jor-El what did do I do?" Her fingers touched his neck and felt his pulse, the thudding against her fingers weak and fading with each beat. "He's dying! What do I do?"

There was no answer except for the slow hiss of alien flesh as it seeped into the cavern floor and the echo of her own words back at her and she closed her eyes, resting her head against Clark's. Caitlin touched Clark's dark hair gently and tears came to her eyes as she watched angry greenish-red streaks make their way down his arms, legs and belly. "I'm sorry Clark...I'm sorry I came so late, I'm sorry I didn't know what to do." She cried quietly for long moments before gently laying Clark back down to the cold ground. Her mouth twisted in a grief stricken smile as she stroked her fingers over his face. "You'll go home now...Back to where you truly belong." Caitlin took a hitching breath. "There's no more pain or guilt or the heartache of a lost love..." Her red rimmed eyes glanced at Lana a moment, the unconscious young woman's chest rose and fell in deep breaths before Caitlin once more looked down at Clark. "But...no matter what this world holds for me...You'll always be a part of who I am." She leaned over, the crystal gently touching Clark's chest as she kissed his forehead.

Clark's body arched against her hand and the crystal pressed deep into his chest, which had stopped its weak rise and fall. Caitlin cried out in surprise and fear as the teenager's body arched again and again. The crystal suddenly flooded the cave with that brilliant white light, and Caitlin buried her head in Clark's neck as she held onto his spasming form. The reddish streaks of blood-poisoned flesh began to pulse and then fade as both Clark and Caitlin were bathed in the crystal's light. Suddenly, Jor-El's voice filled the cave.

"You have done well, Caitlin. Domminus is gone, the threat of her children vanquished by the love you have for my son. You truly are his mate. Protect him, cherish him, as you would a rare jewel. He is the last of our kind, and I entrust his heart and soul to you."

The light vanished with a blinding flash, and Caitlin's heart leapt as Clark stirred against her.

"Clark?" Caitlin wiped her eyes, a smile lighting up her features. She placed her hand under his neck and lifted him, holding his head to her chest. "Can you hear me?" She asked, her fingers gliding down his face.

"Uh . . ." The long dark lashes fluttered and Clark's eyes finally opened. They roved around, unfocused, and then fixed on Caitlin's face. "Caitlin?" He whispered.

Caitlin nodded. "Yeah...it's going to be all right Clark. Domminus is gone and Lana's going to be okay. She's breathing but unconscious. How are you doing?"

"I . . . I'm not sure. I feel a little weak." Clark struggled into a sitting position and took a mental inventory of himself. He powers were gone, rendered dormant by prolonged exposure to Domminus' kryptonite cocoon. He took a deep breath and got to his feet as Caitlin shrugged off her sweater and handed it to Clark. He eyed it with uncertainty, but then tied it around his waist clout-style. He supposed it was better than walking back to the farmhouse in the nude. He glanced over at Lana. "What about Lana? I'm not strong enough to carry her and we can't leave her here."

Caitlin looked down at Lana; she watched her breath and a sense of relief hit her. Domminus had used Lana and it nearly cost her everything including her life. "I can call them; my cell phone is on the car." She left the cave a moment and returned with a t-shirt, that she draped over Lana's naked form. "This will at least keep her warm until the ambulance arrives."

Clark nodded, his eyes half-open and his breathing labored. "Caitlin . . . you better . . . . call my dad. I can't walk . . . back . . . " Clark slowly sank to his knees and then to all fours, what little strength he had bleeding from him slowly.

"I didn't walk here Clark, I drove." Caitlin crouched down and took a hold of his arm. "Come on, we can sit in my car while we wait for help to get here." She held him back up, an arm around his waist as she let him lean on her as they headed to the cave's main entrance.

Clark groaned as Caitlin opened the passenger side door for him and he slumped into the seat, shivering. He wasn't sure if he was cold, or if he was still feeling the after-effects of Domminus' venom. He closed his eyes, and in the distance, a siren began to wail.

Clark swam in and out of a hazy consciousness that never let him quite fully awake for the next three days. He was aware that he was back in his own bedroom, in his own bed, and that occasionally his mom would come in and wipe his face with a cool cloth. She would speak to him soothingly, her voice like the sound of the ocean; soothing, unchanging. At different times he would hear Caitlin, his father, and even Lex . . . they all spoke to him, asking him to wake up. Clark wanted to wake up, but he was trapped in this dozy haze . . . . it held him like Domminus had held him . . . . wrapped in those sticky energy threads that had threatened to drain him of his very life.

"Nnnoo . . . " The sound was pulled from his throat by fear, and his limbs jerked. He felt The Torg's fangs pierce him again and again, her alien body possessing his as she hissed his name over and over . . . . Clark . . . . Clark . . . . Clark . . .

"Clark..." Caitlin dabbed at his forehead as he jerked in the bed. She reached out and snagged his flailing hand, squeezing it with her own. "It's me Clark...its Caitlin..." She whispered into his ear as his head rolled along his sweat-soaked pillow.

Clark heard Caitlin's voice and latched onto it like a lifeboat, letting it pull him into consciousness. It became clearer and louder, and finally Clark found himself blinking awake. His hand closed around hers, and she squeezed it back reassuringly.

"Hey..." A smile came to her face as she brushed his dark hair away from his forehead. "How are you feeling?" Caitlin asked gently.

"Cold. Sweaty . . . . a little queasy." He raised his free hand and rubbed at his eyes. They felt gritty, as if they'd been closed for a long time. "What day is this?" He asked hoarsely.

"Wednesday--" Caitlin wet the cloth she had used on Clark's forehead and dipped it into a basin of water. She rung it out and wiped his face again, hoping to help him wake up. "You've been going in and out of consciousness for the past three days."

"Three days?" Clark asked, and struggled to sit up. He felt as if his bones were made of taffy.

"Yes," Caitlin touched his shoulders and eased him back on the bed. "You've been sick with a fever and all of us have taken turns staying with you during the day and I've been here with you at night."

Everything came back to Clark in a rush of memory and every muscle in his body tensed. He looked up at Caitlin with wide eyes. "Lana. Is Lana all right?"

"Lana's fine Clark, she's at Smallville Memorial right now." Caitlin reached down and took his hand again, her smile fading. "Clark...her mark is gone and she doesn't remember anything that happened before Chloe reported her missing."

His eyes closed briefly. "I'm glad she's all right." When his eyes opened again and his gaze found hers, his expression was full of awe and profound affection. "You killed Domminus. You saved me."

"Thanks to Jor-El." She returned his gaze, her face burned in a blush. "He told me about the crystal."

"But you're the one who had the courage to face Domminus, and to use it on her." Clark took both of her hands in hers and stroked them gently with his long fingers. "I owe you my life, Caitlin."

Caitlin's expression softened as she leaned over Clark, her cheek pressing to his bare chest. "No you don't. I did it because Jor-El said I was the only one that could." She closed her eyes, the sound of his heart beating under her ear soothing and comforting.

"He told you that?" Clark asked. "He said that no one except you could help me get away from Domminus?" The very sound of the Torg queen's name on his lips made him shudder.

"Jor-El said that only your true mate could use the crystal." Caitlin raised her head, a small smile on her lips and her light eyes shone with pride and affection.

"My true mate." Clark repeated softly, his green eyes bright, and he pulled her forward gently until their lips met. He kissed her gently, and then pulled back with a small, shy grin. "Umm . . . I guess this answers the question of whether or not you'll go to the winter formal with me."

"Well I don't know about that..."Caitlin touched her finger to her cheek pretending to think. "I might have to let one of my other boyfriends know and then I'll have to cancel a few other dates..."

Clark groaned and closed his eyes. "Caitlin, please." He chuckled.

She giggled at that and lowered her head, their noses touching. "Of course I'll go with you Clark." Caitlin said as she gave his lips another kiss.

"Good." He sighed. "That is, if I'm up and around by then. My legs feel like rubber." He massaged them gently through the blankets, and was relieved to at least feel sensation. "Caitlin . . . . my powers are gone."

"I know." Caitlin slid off of Clark and sat back down on the edge of the bed. "Jor-El said that the kryptonite is in your system. You've been sweating it out at night and you might for a few more days before it's completely gone. He said your powers would come back."

Clark was quiet for a long while, his hands kneading the sore, pliable flesh just above his knees. "Maybe I don't want them back." He said softly.

Watching him, Caitlin began rubbing his legs through the blanket, mindful of some of the healing scratch marks that Domminus had given him. "I dreamt about Jor-El the night I brought you home. He came to me and told me you would be sick but then your powers would return." She watched his face a moment. "Do you really mean that Clark? Do you really want your powers to stay gone?"

"I don't know." Clark replied softly. "Maybe I'd be better off. Domminus hurt Lana because of me and she might have killed you because you were trying to take me from her." He sighed. "I killed her son. I killed Kal-El, and forcing me to help her take over this planet was my punishment."

"Kal-El?" Caitlin stopped her massage, pulling the blanket up a little higher around Clark's waist. "You mean her and Jor-El?" She shook her head. "No wonder he made you into Kal-El, he wanted you to destroy him and that was the only way."

"And Domminus punished me for it." Clark's eyes grew shadowed with emotion. "She would have killed me if it wasn't for you."

"Clark, it's all right." She reached out and put her hand on his cheek, seeing the turmoil on his face. "She's gone now and she's never going to hurt you again."

"I know." Clark replied, and raised his eyes to hers. "Caitlin?"


"I'm feeling sort of sleepy again. Will . . . . will you stay with me? Here?" Clark shifted slightly to make room beside him, his request both hopeful and shy and thus doubly touching.

Without saying a word, Caitlin got up from the bed and walked around it. She stood by the left side of the bed and took off her tennis shoes, then slid into the bed beside Clark. She wrapped an arm around his waist and lowered her head to his chest. "Does this answer your question?"

"Yeah." The word was a contended sigh, and a moment later Clark drifted off into sleep that was both deep and healing. His arm tightened around Caitlin, and just before he surrendered to slumber, he heard Jor-El's voice in his head.

She belongs to you now, as you do to her. Cherish her, my son, for she is the hope of our people, as you are the hope of hers. You complete each other.

Clark sighed as Caitlin's presence washed away his bad dreams, and he slid into sleep.

She is your one true mate.


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