Disclaimer: Not mine, don't own them. Warning: Part One contains some graphic violence and a rape scene. _Author's note_: I started writing this story sometime in season two before Chloe and Lex had any interaction or connection what-so-ever. So even though it's a future fic, now that Chlex has a storyline on the show, my fic has turned into a kind of AU where Chloe was never involved with Lionel and by extension, Lex. Also, feedback is more welcome than a cool breeze on a sweltering day. ;)
Racing down the street at a brake-neck pace, she kept her eyes fixed on the woman several yards ahead. She was in pursuit. The adrenaline pumping through her body was unbelievable. She had always been a journalist, even before she knew what the word meant, had always been chasing a story, but never this literally. Especially since entering the mundane adult world of newspaper work, a far cry from the adventure filled days of her Wall-of-Weird youth. But here it was again, the thrill of the chase and just like old times, Clark was right there running along side her, glancing at her every two seconds. Maybe making sure she was keeping up? She couldn't tell. He looked like he wanted to just take off and catch this woman, but Chloe thought that even he couldn't have caught up. This lady was lean like a marathon runner. Chloe could barely keep her in sight. People standing and walking along the street began to stop and stare in confusion as the two pushed by, excusing themselves without really meaning it. As they rounded the next corner, Chloe saw the woman had stopped running; had turned to face them. Chloe couldn't suppress the excitement and satisfaction surging through her as she rounded the corner of the building ahead of Clark.
She had her.
Chloe heard a pop, very muted. She ignored the sound and focused instead on the woman, barley registered the feeling of something hitting her left shoulder. She thought a big bug or something had flown right into her, but found instead that her legs lost themselves. She was on the ground before she knew what was happening. Frustration flared as she watched the woman take off running. Instantly Clark was leaning over her.
"Oh my God." he whispered.
"What? I'm okay, you can't let her get away!"
He just stared; fright on his face. For once the man had no idea what to do. And even though pain was starting to seep into the edges of her awareness, she could help but feel smugly satisfied. Clark Kent with no clue how to proceed.
"Clark, GO!" she half choked, half yelled, "An ambulance is already on its way"
Despite the fact that she had no way of knowing that for sure, people had begun to gather. Logic dictated someone would have pulled out their phone to make a call. She could see he was leaning toward the idea of chasing after the woman. Thank god. All this would have been for nothing. He had to get going. Clark reached down to stroke her hair tenderly, but the pain had started getting worse and she grimaced unintentionally at his touch.
"You'll be okay, Chloe. I just-- what if she goes after Lana?"
She closed her eyes at that, a surge of pain coming-up from areas undetermined.
"I'm sure an ambulance is coming," her voice coming out flat this time.
He hesitated a second longer, as if there were something else he wanted to say. But at this point she didn't want to hear it. He was pissing her off, wasting all this time. She felt like she was about to blackout at that point anyway. She opened her drooping lids to tell him as much, but he was gone, she hadn't even realized. So there she was-- left to bleed alone in the street.
Consciousness faded in and out. She wasn't sure exactly how long she'd been lying there, but when she woke fully smelling salts were assaulting her nose and her eyes saw only blurry confusion. Men, EMTs she assumed, were asking her questions she couldn't quite understand and the uncomfortably bright day she was revived to made her head throb. They had her on a stretcher and started wheeling her away before she could figure out exactly what was happening. Voices were everywhere, shattering her concentration. Color was flashing in her vision; she could barely see. The entire left side of her body felt like it was made of lead. Confusion and exhaustion were making her complacent, but something was tugging at the edge of her brain. Something was wrong. They'd already placed her in a vehicle and were speeding away when questions began to form in her mind. Do EMTs use smelling salts? Do they load you right up without tending to your wounds? She really wasn't sure.
The jolting ambulance ride was doing nothing for her pain level and she tried to tell the EMTs as much. The looming figure in front of her came in and out of focus as she tried to voice her complaint. But eventually clarity hit, revealing the face in front of her as one she knew well. She'd seen him a million times in photographs, but seeing him in person made ice water run through her veins. She hadn't expected that. Russ Gosch didn't seem quite so menacing in photos. She felt herself panicking, felt certain of her own death, but somehow managed to frown quizzically at him and speak.
"For some reason I find it hard to believe you're working ambulance shifts, considering you usually stick to killing people, not curing them."
"I think its best you keep your mouth shut until I tell you to open it." He smirked as he sank a needle into her arm and she was out again.
Consciousness arrived in some kind of storage facility in the basement of a building. Her sneakers, jeans and sweatshirt had been removed. The gunshot wound had been cleaned but was still bleeding freely. The pain was nearly unbearable. Her entire body felt weak and she began to worry about how much blood she was losing. Was it a lot? Did it just seem like a lot because it was her blood? She could feel a trickle move down her left arm and turned to look at the half dried, half glistening mix of gore covering her left side. She felt like something out of a horror flick.
The damp basement inspired chills to jostle through her. The sparse cover of a worn tee shirt and briefs were not keeping her especially warm. At least they'd left her socks on. She took a quick inventory of her situation: dark cold basement, fairly sizable, bullet in the shoulder, hands cuffed behind her back. That was about it. She attempted to struggle for a bit, trying to test her bonds, but too much movement sent pain shooting to her left shoulder and the cuffs bit into the skin of her wrists. When the pain became too bad she had to stop struggling. Shivering in silence was a much less painful option.
She had no concept of how long it took for Gosch to finally show up. He walked in the room casually, watching her. A younger, sluggish man followed behind.
She recognized him.
Some kid she'd seen before. She couldn't place him, but both his face and the way he carried himself were familiar. Strange. He was a big kid. Over six feet, but he wasn't fat. He was hulking and soft and stupid as far as she could tell. He kept glancing at her then turning his head shyly away. Acting as if she had some kind of power of disapproval. He was obviously missing the fact that she was bound, bleeding and powerless. Still, her mind couldn't help but pick-up the signal. She already knew he was her chance for survival.
Gosch snapped her out of her thoughts with the sudden invasion of her personal space. His eyes fixed so intently; she couldn't help but squirm where she sat. He looked like some kind of predatory creature, so sly, so cold. He began to explain his interest in her. How his "intel" informed him that a young reporter, newly hired to do little more than proof reading, was trying to make a name for herself by snooping into his activities. Curiosity at the audacity of this pup made him take a moment from his busy schedule as a criminal to look her up. So she had been wrong. The realization hit her hard. She assumed from the moment she identified him in the ambulance that this little abduction was about scaring her into curbing the investigation she started, but in reality it was about his investigations into her.
"Things became very interesting when I discovered the identity of your mother."
She didn't even know who her mother was, not really, and told him as much. He moved closer, fast as lightning, hand on her throat. The thumb of his other hand pressed into her bullet wound as she began screaming like a banshee. He quickly choked it off.
"A resourceful girl like you? I have a feeling you know plenty." His tone remained even, unchanged.
She hardly heard him, the pain was screaming in her ears, closing in on her thoughts. When he released his grip she let out a sob, leaning back against the wall. Tired and reeling.
"I recommend you cooperate," he said flippantly before leaving.
Interestingly enough, Gosch's little lackey stayed behind. He brought over water and antiseptic, cleaned her wound, but still didn't bandage it. Blood was seeping out again.
"I need a doctor." She muttered to him, eyes rolling in her head. He placed his hand over her mouth.
"Shhhh," was all he said before he too, left.
She watched him walk out of the room, knowing he was the key to getting out of there. Instead of the comfort she expected from the thought, she felt only bitterness. From the moment she laid eyes on him, watching her with that stupid, hungry look on his face, she'd seen the potential to manipulate him. But then, he too had the power to manipulate her situation, didn't he.
She dosed on and off that night in fitful dreams.
She dreamed about a giant killer whale eating a man in the ocean while she watched on from the beach, helpless.
She dreamed about her mother, whose face she could barely conjure up in life, but in dreams was so clear, so real. They were walking through a wheat field and came upon an abandoned factory. In the dream, her mother told her to wait outside while she quickly ran in. But the young, dream-world Chloe didn't want to be left alone and ran in after her mother, searching frantically, but could only catch glimpses of her mother's constantly retreating figure.
She dreamed about Clark and Lana watching her drown in a crystal clear pool, calmly discussing the best way to save her as she sank beneath the water.
It was almost a relief to be jolted awake by blinding overhead lights. The backs of her eyes seared with pain trying to adjust after so many hours of darkness. She was blind, unaware of who was in the room and where they were in relation to her.
"Ms. Sullivan! How are we this morning?"
Morning. A sudden panic flashed through her. She wasn't going to be able to track hours or days. She would always be in the dark. Time would exist in a vacuum.
"Feeling very cooperative today, I hope."
Her eyes were only starting to adjust and his outline was hazy, a walking specter.
"Why are you doing this? What could you possibly hope to get from me?"
Maybe she sounded a little too sassy, a little too indignant. Perhaps it was the overconfident tone, but as Gosch's features finally fell into focus, his expression betrayed a simmering anger she wasn't prepared for. He moved forward, slowly wrapping his hand around her neck, his fingers resting against her jugular almost reverently. No doubt he was getting great satisfaction from feeling her pulse kick into high speed. She could practically see the adrenaline rush surge through his body. He could sense her fear. He lived for this shit.
"I have several very important questions to ask you and I suggest you answer them quickly and precisely. Shall we start then?"
She didn't move, didn't breathe as he produced a thick rope, wrapping it around her neck and tying one end around a pipe above her head. He watched her closely as he tightened the slack, creating a kind of mock noose, forcing her face to turn upward. The only way she could avoid looking at him now was to close her eyes or gag trying to avoid his gaze.
"When was the last time you were in contact with your mother?"
"I never figured you for the bondage type, Russ. I appreciate the gesture and all, but I'm really more of an old fashioned, no-props type girl."
The barb didn't come out as well as she hoped. Her voice was choked and shaking. She watched as her blatant fear fueled him further. He grabbed her face, forcing the rope to bite into her neck, choking her.
"Answer the question."
"I don't-- I-- she called me on my tenth birthday. That's the last time I ever heard from her."
Her voice was squeaking.
"Don't lie to me."
He growled as he delivered a blow to her face, making an explosion go off in her head. Blood trickled from her nose.
Broken? Hard to say.
Pain? Most definitely.
Realization that she was currently in the middle of her worst nightmare? Kicking in at full force.
She felt like screaming. The man was completely out of his mind. What could he possibly be trying to get out of her? Her mother? As far as Chloe knew she'd willingly withdrawn from the company of the living years ago.
And where was Clark? He was the one who all the sudden caught the 'I-want-to-be-this-great-investigative-reporter' fever. So investigate where the fuck she'd been taken, Clark! She choked out a half sob, half laugh of incredulity.
"My mother is ancient history in my life. How could I possibly tell you anything you want to know?"
"I have a feeling, Ms. Sullivan, that you are going to be one of those people who makes things very difficult for herself. Your mother is a person who holds quite a bit of valuable information. Much like you do, I suspect. I know that you expect me to believe that you can't keep your nose out of any piddling mystery you come across, but somehow you can easily dismiss the mystery of your own mother. Admittedly, I find that scenario unlikely to say the least."
Great. She tried to dig into the depths of her mind, to call up all the information she ever read or wrote about Russ Gosch. Anything that might give him a reason to take what she said at face value, something that might distract him from his mission. She felt desperate to prevent the inevitable torture session stretching out into her future. She was catching glimpses of what her life was about to become.
Russ Gosch, full name: Russell Peterson Gosch. Highest paid "information gatherer" in the market today. Usually works for an outside hire, but maintains several lucrative projects on the side that are his own. Most recently, he provided stolen military information to a client who hijacked an international weapons cargo. How does he manage to get past government officials? How did his client manage to elude authorities packing three tons of military weaponry? Apparently he has his ways.
Her mind started crackling at the thought that she might be able to outwit him into disclosing who his current client was or perhaps the location of the cargo. But at the moment, she was in serious doubt of her stellar verbal judo. The significant loss of blood and the incrementally increasing pain throughout her body were effecting her ability to concentrate. Looking into this man's life was what got her into this mess in the first place. No time for sly maneuvering, she had to concentrate on self-preservation. Where was Gosch's little lackey? She needed to keep her focus on that silent, slack-jawed wonder. That vaguely familiar face was lurking, always lurking behind his boss, waiting for instructions. His long stares her way were getting bolder. Considering the fact that she prided herself on her sharp mind, she found it extremely frustrating that she was unable to place his face.
The cold click of Gosch's switchblade opening snapped her back to attention.
"Let's try something else, shall we? I'll show you some photographs and you tell me what you know about them."
She could only blink at him as he produced a photo of a skeletal man in a lumberjack hat. The picture wasn't very clear, a badly made print.
"I have no idea who that is."
He nodded seriously for a moment before bringing up his knife and slicing into the fleshy part of her upper arm with the blade. She let out a yelp in surprise.
"Wrong answer."He immediately brought up another picture, this one of an older woman; tall, very regal.
Even as she felt panic invade, she tried to keep her reporter's head on, tried to memorize as many details about the photographs as possible. But it was getting more difficult as fear began taking over. She had no control over anything that was happening. If she had any information he wanted that would at least be something she could use to control the situation. She had nothing, was powerless to help herself. All she could do was shake her head. She had no idea who the woman was. He sliced into her arm again, deeper this time, a perfect inch below the first cut. As much as she wanted to deny him the satisfaction, she couldn't suppress her outcry. The man was cruel, knew to cut the arm without the gunshot wound to make sure she got as much pain out of the experience as possible.
"We'll try one more time." He was so calm, so detached from all of this. She felt rage building up, frustration expanding through her body.
"Do you want me to lie? I'm telling you, you're asking the wrong person. I don't know anything about any of this." Her voice had gone shrill from anger and desperation.
He watched her for a moment. "Perhaps you're right. Maybe we should finish for the day and continue tomorrow. You look a little tired." He smiled, finding himself funny, no doubt. "But maybe I should leave you with a warning that tomorrow I won't be so lenient."
With that he revealed a lemon, quickly cutting it in half with his now bloody knife. He brought half of the cool fruit against the shredded flesh of her right arm. Crushing the lemon in his hand sent juice spraying, trickling, gushing down her shoulder into her freshly cut wounds. She screamed; couldn't stop herself. She writhed in her bonds, trying to escape the burning, eating acid of the juice. But metal bit into the flesh of her wrists. The rope choked and rubbed at the skin around her already raw neck. She couldn't move without injuring herself further.
Hell, this might be hell.
Before she could even bring her mind back into focus he squeezed the second half over her left shoulder, sending more of the acidic juice shooting down to the barely healing wound from the bullet. It was too much. Lights began to flash behind her eyes. She was going to pass out. She only partly noticed Gosch throw the lemon halves on the floor and walk out of the room. She squirmed uncomfortably in her restraints, barely acknowledging the younger man as he stepped out of the shadows where he waited. He began to pour cool water over her burning skin and applied antiseptic. He wiped the dried blood from her nose. Always nursing the wounds but never bandaging them, never thinking to release her neck from the fucking rope.
"That was quite a show your boss put on," her voice was ragged, barely audible. He gave no response, "Even I was impressed by the grand finale."
Wouldn't even look her in the face as he went about his duties. Shit. She wasn't getting through to him as easily as she expected. Was it the two giant black eyes she felt forming from the blow she'd taken to the face? Perhaps it was the gapping, bleeding wounds now present on both of her arms.
"I need to use the bathroom."
She tried a more genuine tone. Without saying a word, he pulled a bucket up next to her. Oh god. She came to an unsettling realization that no one had any intention of taking her out of this room for any reason. Her hope began to sink.
As he rose to leave he hesitated a moment and, as if on an impulse of some kind of disobedient act, produced one of those stupid little juice boxes. He put the straw into the top, holding it to her lips while she hungrily sucked the liquid out. She hadn't eaten in so long. Every calorie from that wretched box of juice seemed precious. It was the best juice she'd ever had in her life and it was gone so quickly. He switched off the light and left.
So there she was again. Alone. Shivering from the cold. Pain radiating through her body in waves.
She was never going to get out.
She was going to die there.
Sobbing into the dark, she let devastation creep in. She would never escape this. No hope. She cried until her mind retreated into sleep.
She awoke into the empty dark. Slowly fading in until she remembered where she was and what was happening. The slow burn of discomfort shot up and down her back. At this point, her first-born child didn't seem like such a high price to pay to be able to crack her neck, but that damn rope made it impossible. There was no light filtering in, the room stretched out pitch black around her. The concrete underneath her ass was freezing and a maddening drip, drip, drip accompanied by the occasional rushing of water through pipes threatened to drive her insane. But more importantly, her bladder was threatening to explode. She kicked one of her legs out in front of her, dragging it around in a half circle, trying to find that damn bucket. Finally her leg hit, sending it clanging to the floor and rolling toward her. The whole attempt was so frustrating. All she wanted to do was piss, but every time she tried to reach anywhere with her goddamned tied hands, pain flashed up and down her arms and she began gagging from the pressure at her neck. After many tries and much discomfort she finally got the bucket upright and situated directly behind her. Her sense of accomplishment was off the charts. How she managed to both hoist herself up and pull down her briefs she still wasn't quite sure, but the reward was so wonderful. She could think of nothing better to give a lift to the spirit than a little emptying of the bladder.
After that challenge was over all she had left was time. Time to test her bonds, to think about what had and what might still be done to her; to wonder what time it was, how long she'd been there; to wonder what people at home were thinking, but mostly to try and put some clues together about why she was really there. What kind of information was Gosch seeking so desperately?
Thinking back on the events of the past few weeks, it all made an ironic kind of sense that everyone thought someone had been after Lana. Someone had broken into their house and ransacked Lana's room, but it had been Chloe's room before Lana moved in. She supposed that because they had been roommates in high school it seemed a logical step to share quarters again when Lana broke up with her most current boyfriend and needed to move out of their shared apartment. Chloe had simply given her the bedroom and moved into the much larger common room near the back of the house. She enjoyed the fact that she was forced to become creative with the space, and there was a front room that left plenty of living area for the two women.
It never really crossed any of their minds that whomever broke into the house had been operating under the assumption that the room was still Chloe's. Lana had even fueled the fire by talking about strange calls on her cell phone, cars coming out of nowhere and almost hitting her, but now it seemed that had all been paranoia on her part. Just her over-active imagination. The only time Chloe had witnessed anything suspicious was when Lana, Clark and she were out together and that woman began snapping photos. Clark and Chloe had given chase, but that piece of shit had shot her. She only hoped that Clark eventually caught up, but she had a feeling that he rushed right to Lana's side instead. When they left for college, Chloe thought the pattern of Clark Kent as personal savior to Lana Lang was over. But after graduating they all ended up back in Smallville somehow. Clark returning to help his parents with the farm. Chloe was paying her dues at a local paper, still dreaming of moving to Metropolis and getting that coveted job at the Planet. Pete was becoming more and more involved in local politics and Lana, of course, was forever the patroness of the Talon. So even after four years apart they had all fallen into the old patterns. Chloe couldn't decide if she found it sentimentally amusing or infuriating that even after all this time Lana still took top priority.
And he left Chloe alone in the street, hadn't he?
That wasn't really fair, she knew. She urged him to go, but he could've stayed despite her protests. Jesus, if only he would have stayed. If only Lana's every fucking crisis didn't require the constant attention of Clark Kent. She found the blame game so easy, sitting there freezing and hurting everywhere, frightened. It wasn't very productive, but it was easy. She felt like she'd been sitting in the dark for an eternity; felt like she might go insane from pain and time upon endless time with nothing to do but think and wait.
So this new existence went on and on: never knowing when Gosch would show up; spending a lifetime in the dark; fearing when the light would be switched on again. And it always was eventually. He always appeared sooner or later with a snide greeting and more questions followed by more punishments when she couldn't provide the answers.
He burned the bottom of her feet with a blazing hot iron when she couldn't tell him her mother's location. He brought out a thin metal rod to whip her with for each new snapshot she couldn't identify. He ran icy water over her body from above while shocking her with electrical charges when she was unable to give him answers about what happened in Moddell. She didn't even know what the hell Moddell was, but she was getting curious. After every 'session', as he liked to refer to them, his mute little assistant would clean her up and produce one of those fucking juice boxes. Sometimes she tried to talk to him. Sometimes it hurt too much to speak, but he would never say anything. Silent as the grave.
She didn't really care that much. She was becoming numb, used to the routine. Although her body felt weak from little nourishment and an overabundance of stress, she was amazed to find that her threshold for pain was getting higher. Gosch began to notice the decrease in response and told her that he was going to come less frequently to give his 'sessions' a greater punch. But she could tell he was becoming frustrated. He was used to having answers by now. She could see him begin to doubt that she knew anything at all. The realization that his 'intel' may have been incorrect regarding how much she knew, didn't seem to sit well with him.
She began to create little research projects for herself. Making it her personal mission to watch these men's behavior closely, calculating everything in an attempt to distract her mind. Their expressions, body language, tone of voice, all became clues to piece together as she tried to search for patterns. Her entire existence became about observation. The torture became almost routine for both her and Gosch. She came to the conclusion that he hadn't stopped simply because he refused to believe that he was wrong about her. He couldn't admit to himself that she could provide next to nothing about her mother's life or whereabouts. Even more shocking to him, perhaps, was that her mother could give a damn about what was happening to her own daughter. She would make no attempt to get her own daughter out of this. Chloe had no draw on her. She almost laughed in his face when she saw him come to that realization. Still, he didn't stop the beatings, they just came less frequently and were less enthusiastically executed. Eventually, he even gave up the pretense of interrogation, just lashed out in frustration. She moved from intelligence source to whipping boy and decided to make more aggressive plans for escape.
Despite the fact that Gosch no longer came on a regular basis, his little assistant showed up like clockwork. Cleaning and treating whatever damage had recently been done, bringing her juice and occasionally little bits of food. After a time he began to release her neck and wrists at every visit, putting salve on them, giving her some time to move her neck and back, stretch her legs. She started to notice how his hands would linger near her thighs or casually brush against her breasts while applying ointment to her arms. He was timid, nervous, but repeated access made him bolder. More recently, he had been setting his hand on her leg, tentatively, lightly. Small progress, but she could taste freedom in his subtle advances. Not long after their first few encounters, she had decided to change her strategy with him. She stopped trying to make small talk. She never spoke, only watched him silently and eventually he began talking to her. Their roles had reversed, he attempted chitchat and she said nothing. She observed everything he said and did, analyzing it beyond meaning. She tried to predict his behavior in response to little things she would do, wanting test her theories. He was all she had, her only way out. On one of his visits he confessed that he knew her.
Her eyes snapped up. She had recognized him.
"I worked on a landscaping crew your father once hired. I always thought you were very beautiful," he looked down, embarrassed, "Sometimes I would drive by your house at night and watch you. I thought about you a lot."
After his last statement she placed her hand over his and moved it up her leg, to the top of her thigh. She slowly inched their hands around toward the inside of her leg, beginning to slide his fingers beneath the elastic of her briefs when he jerked his hand away.
"Wh...What are you doing?" He was stuttering.
Trying to seduce you right into my handcuffs, asshole.
"Sorry." She tried to make her tone simple, shy. Always looking right at him, trying to hide the fact that her true focus was past him, on that slightly ajar door just waiting to lead her out of this hellhole. He quickly replaced the cuffs and the rope and shot out of the room like he'd caught fire.
How was this going to work? The freedom within reach she felt in his two seconds of compliance was enough to convince her to try again. It just wasn't going to be as easy as she assumed. She spent her time thinking up scenarios, plans, and possible reactions on his part. She imagined successes and failures enough for all those hours in the dark. When he showed again, she made no move on him. She let him take off her bindings and go about his usual tasks, and when his hand traveled up her thigh of its own volition, she slowly, almost imperceptibly, went for the discarded handcuffs lying on the floor and almost felt like breaking into a smile. He moved forward to kiss her, heaven only knows why. Her breath, no doubt, smelled like sewage at this point, but his action opened the perfect opportunity. As his second hand came up to touch her breast, she snapped a manacle around his wrist and tried to attach the other cuff to the nearby pipe. But her arms were too weak and her fingers too clumsy, and when her plan of one quick, smooth motion dissolved into fumbling awkward movements, she knew it was over.
"You little bitch."
He sobbed out his words, sounding more heartbroken than angry. Shoving her away, he caused her body to smack into the wall behind. Her eyes rolled back into her head as she collided with the brick.
"I try to help you, do nice things... I brought you food, took care of you. You ungrateful bitch."
All she could do was stare at him stupidly. This was not going as planned. His hands closed tightly onto her shoulders. His touch was rough. He was hurting her, but the expression on his face was full of sadness and pain of betrayal. He was crying openly, muttering things she could barely make out.
"I thought you were good...thought you understood...thought you were so sweet, so beautiful... just a whore... dirty liar...I felt sorry for you..." he just kept rambling that way, sometimes unintelligible through his crying.
He was running his fingers on her neck, her skin, and all she could concentrate on was that handcuff swinging loose. She was completely focused on exploring every possible thing in the vicinity the handcuff could be attached to. He would have to stop moving his hands so much, but she saw several options that could work. She could snap that puppy around something solid on the wall.
This could happen.
Her eyes remained glued to that cuff, even when his touch became more insistent, his muttering more intense, angrier. She knew what was coming. She just had to keep her mind focused, watch for her opportunity. Even as she felt him roughly remove her briefs, undo his own pants, force himself inside of her, she watched and waited. Pain, humiliation, violation, she was used to it.
The small cries escaping her throat each time he pushed into her?
The creeping tears inching down her cheeks, escaping from eyes she thought ran dry ages ago?
Physical reactions, nothing more.
This was a mean to an end.
What had she expected, after all? What had she thought was going to happen with this man? That he would simply become infatuated and let her go, easy as that? She endured worse during this whole nightmare and when this was over it might mean her freedom. She felt his movements become more urgent. Pounding into her, his rhythm became erratic, until finally he climaxed. His body collapsed onto hers, filling her nostrils with his sweat; his skin's sour odor. She slowly reached her hand around, groping for the cold metal. It seemed an eternity before she felt it, cool in her hand. In the swift movement that she intended the first time around, she snapped the cuff around a thin metal pipe on the wall.
She slipped out quickly from underneath him and was already snatching her briefs off the floor when he began muttering again, confused by what had just happened. He began to pull at his now restrained arm, yelling after her, calling her a bitch, a whore. He reached out in an attempt to grab her, but she was already gone. Through that door he always left ajar, her adrenaline pumping through her body, she almost cried when the first door she saw after emerging from that basement had a giant exit sign glowing above it. She pushed through, emerging into more darkness. No moon tonight. The air on her skin and in her lungs was like magic. Was it possible that she'd been such a short distance from escape all this time? It seemed even more cruel somehow.
She began to run, badly. Terribly out of breath, her body raged against the effort, shooting pain from abuse and disuse everywhere. But adrenaline proved to be a beautiful thing and pushed her along through the asphalt lot outside the building and down a side road until she came upon a seemingly empty dock. Where the hell was she? She had to stop running, it was more than her body could handle, but she walked as quickly as her screaming lungs allowed. She would have dragged herself with her teeth if necessary. Just to keep moving. She broke into a hopeful sob at the sight of a neon glowing sign. The most beautiful piece of shit seafood shack she'd ever seen emerged in front of her. Stumbling in the door, an emaciated, filthy, beat-up, nearly naked mess, the entire place stared. Fright and awe passing over the stunned faces. The patroness finally came forward.
"Excuse me, young lady..."
The woman could only begin her sentence before Chloe let out a sob, nearly falling over from the exertion she put on her already taxed body. The woman grabbed her to stop her from hitting the floor.
"I need your help."
The woman led her into a back room used as the restaurant's office and handed her a giant "Peg's Crab Shack" tee shirt to put on while she called the police to come take Chloe off her hands.
Chloe didn't care. She was free. Unbelievable.
She was out.
"Can I ask you the date?" The woman stared at her quizzically. She looked wary of the younger girl, a little frightened by this battered, rat of a person before her, "What's today's date?" She asked again, trying not to sound short.
A month. Jesus Christ, she'd only been gone a month. It felt like years.
Only a month.
Next thing she knew the police were everywhere, an ambulance right behind. They took her name, as much of her statement as they could get right then and shipped her off to the hospital where the staff tried not to act shocked, horrified, or struck into pitying silence. They did a rape kit, x-ray, all kinds of blood tests, took her temperature a million times. She was told about her broken ribs, the hairline fracture in her left arm, and her cracked cheekbone before being pumped full of drugs and melting away into oblivion. She couldn't help but notice how, except for the initial assessment when she was being admitted, they carefully avoided talking too much about the flesh rubbed raw around her neck and wrists, or the giant welts on her back, the burns on her feet, or the perfectly aligned slices running down her right arm. Even her ragged sunken face seemed to be glossed over by those treating her, as long as she didn't pay too close attention to the look in their eyes. She didn't really care. She was in a bed, in a room, with a window and didn't yet have to worry about dealing with anyone. No questions, no sad looks from familiar faces, no struggle of trying to deal with their inability to understand.
For now, just sleep
The telephone screeched to life, jolting Clark awake. He reached for the clock first. 3am. Not a good sign. He'd been dreading middle of the night calls since early May.
Since he left Chloe in that street.
When they couldn't find what hospital she'd been taken to, Gabe, his parents, everyone started asking around town. Had anyone seen an ambulance show up? What did the EMTs look like? And then, slowly, it dawned on them all; this phantom that they were trying to protect Lana from had been after Chloe all along. Now 'they' had her and Clark had been the one to let them take her. He had to admit, he took it pretty hard. He shut himself up in him room for two days doing nothing but inflicting self-blame for leaving her alone. Pete had been the only one who could snap him out of it.
"Clark, you fucked-up, but you can't fix it holed up in your room."
And it worked. All the platitudes in the world hadn't helped him, from his parents, from Lana. He needed the truth.
Jesus, he could barely look at her these days. She represented the source of all his guilt. He grabbed the receiver off its cradle after the third ring. He didn't want to know.
"Clark," Lana's voice, "They found her. The police called her father more than an hour ago."
"Where is she?"
"She's at St. Luke's Hospital; an hour outside of Metropolis, but Clark I don't know if now's the best time..."
He didn't even wait for the end of her sentence. He was already pulling on his jeans and heading out the door. His mother emerged from her room into the hallway as he was starting down the stairs.
"Honey, who was that?"
"They've found her, Mom. She's in a hospital near Metropolis."
"I have to go, I'll call you in the morning."
And he sped out he door, down the street, down the freeway, stopping only once to ask directions to the hospital. He had to see her with his own eyes. When Clark arrived it was already four am. It had taken him longer than he expected. He walked directly up to the triage nurse.
"I have a friend in this hospital, I need to see her."
"Is she an emergency patient?"
"I don't know. I think she was brought here earlier tonight. God, I don't really know." He was getting agitated, panicked.
"Well, visiting hours don't begin until 8am, you won't be able to see anyone until then."
The look on his face must have been desperate, must have reflected the anxiety he felt building.
"I suppose I could at least try to figure out where she is. What's your friend's name?"
"Chloe. Chloe Sullivan."
He was practically in tears. He hadn't cried once the entire time she was missing, but he seriously thought he might finally lose it.
"Just wait here and I'll try to find something out for you, okay?"
He nodded, feeling weak all of the sudden. He told himself that, once inside the hospital, he would fight tooth and nail to see her, but now that he'd arrived he was scared. He feared her condition. He feared her blame. Dizziness hit. God, he needed to sit down. It was almost a blessing when the nurse didn't return for 20 minutes.
"Your friend is in a room on the third floor. You're welcome to go upstairs and wait if you'd like."
Her offer was curt but not unkind. He was grateful for that, actually. If she had coddled him he might lose what little control he was operating on.
His reply was weak, but she only nodded toward the elevators and turned back to her work.
Clark walked into the waiting area on 3 and gave a start to see a familiar face.
Of course he would be there, Clark didn't know why he was so shocked to see him. Maybe it was the way he looked, haggard, like a man defeated.
"Have you been in to see her yet?" he asked hesitantly.
The man barely seemed to register the question.
"No...no. I only just got here myself. I've hardly spoken more than two words with the doctor."
"Well is she okay? Is she awake?"
He looked up at Clark with slow, watery eyes.
"I don't know."
Clark could feel his nerves jerking like live wires. Where was the damn doctor? Time seemed to slow itself down for the sole purpose of driving him insane. The minutes were ticking by unbearably. Clark had no idea how Mr. Sullivan could take it, but the older man just sat stoically. Clark had to make desperate attempts to distract himself. Pacing, buying sodas from the vending machine, making at least five trips to the bathroom, all in an effort to occupy his mind and trick time into moving a little faster. But despite everything, it still took the longest hour in history before a doctor showed up to tell them anything.
"You're Miss Sullivan's family?"
"This is her father, I'm just a friend." Clark piped up. He was wired, felt like her could fly out in a million different directions at once. The doctor turned his attention to Mr. Sullivan.
"You may want to hear what I have to say privately, you are her immediate family."
"It's fine for Clark to stay. He's practically family."
The man spoke like someone already defeated. Sounding as though he already convinced himself of the worst. Clark found it hard to watch; Chloe's own father giving up hope.
"Okay then. You should know that your daughter is in stable condition and shows no signs that she's likely to destabilize; she's going to be fine. Her healing process, however, is going to take awhile. We want to keep her in the hospital for a couple weeks."
"Why? What's wrong with her?" Clark couldn't contain his question.
The doctor looked at Chloe's father hesitantly before continuing.
"Well, first of all, she's severely dehydrated and undernourished and we want to get some fluid in her, also she has some broken bones: her shoulder, some ribs, her right cheekbone. She also has some wounds that we want to watch on her arms and some second degree burns on her feet..."
Clark had the sensation of being lowered into an ever-darkening cave; each word the doctor said made it worse. He needed to sit. Tears were welling up in his eyes.
"Do you want me to continue later? I know this is a lot..."
"No," Mr. Sullivan didn't hesitate, "I want to hear it all."
The doctor continued, pity dominating his voice.
"She has some bruising on her chest and abdomen that seem to indicate the administration of some kind of electrical charge and we don't yet know if that has affected her system in a more serious way than we've been able to determine. We want to do more tests. She also has abrasions on her back and we want to make sure they don't get infected. Mr. Sullivan..."
He hesitated then, glancing over at Clark, who, by this time, had found his way to a chair. Sitting with his head in his hands, he just listened to the unending list.
"We also found evidence of sexual assault. We were able to collect a DNA sample and hopefully the police will be able to find the perpetrator quickly."
"So you're telling me that my daughter was tortured and raped."
Clark looked up at the comment. Mr. Sullivan's voice was devoid of passion. Where was the anger? He sounded dark, distant. How could he just sit there and listen to this so calmly?
"Sir, your daughter is an extremely brave woman. She's endured what looks like weeks of abuse and escaped of her own volition."
"Like mother, like daughter."
Clark's head snapped around to look at the older man. The comment had barely been spoken, muttered almost silently under his breath. Someone with a less acute sense of hearing never would have heard, but Clark caught it.
"Because you're a family member I can take you into see her if you'd like. Her friend, I'm afraid, will have to wait until visiting hours. I just don't want you to be alarmed at her appearance. She's very thin and her face is swollen and bruised. She also has abrasions around her neck and wrists. I just want you to be prepared."
Mr. Sullivan simply nodded, standing slowly to follow the doctor down the hall. Clark could only sit unmoving, unthinking for several moments before he bolted to the men's room and emptied the entire contents of his stomach into the toilet bowl. He didn't think he'd ever thrown up before. Strange.
When the heaving and retching finally subsided, the tears began. He sobbed loud and hard, fighting the nearly uncontrollable urge to rip the bathroom to shreds. It was amazing, the odd mix of anger, frustration, and pain that fueled this torrent of tears. He could remember only one other time when he felt this helpless. Except it had been his mother lying in a hospital bed from that overturned truck, when she lost the baby. His fault too, but he wasn't a kid anymore and if he learned anything from that experience it was that he didn't want to run away from this. After the rage and tears began to subside, a quiet calm came sweeping through. He felt good almost, capable of dealing with this situation. He would be there for Chloe and he would make whoever did this to her pay.
It was a simple enough equation and he could see how despite everything, it could work out. She'd always been the strongest of the group and when she saw whoever did this to her safely locked away for good, she would feel safe again. Surrounded by the people that loved her, she could recover, and he would be right there to help her through it. She would feel safe.
He could protect her.
It was his fault she had to go through this, he owed her that much at least, and Chloe had never been one to lay blame. He could already imagine that she would understand how much he blamed himself, how horrible he already felt. He even managed a small smile at the thought that she might try to comfort him a bit; give him that mournful smile she sometimes gave and tell him not to beat himself up so much. They would get through this. He knew they would. He emerged from the bathroom feeling calmer, more clearheaded. The horrors Chloe went through were still ringing in his ears, but he felt hope buoy him up. He found Mr. Sullivan back in the waiting room when he returned.
"Mr. Sullivan... How is she? Is she awake?"
When Chloe's father looked up Clark found himself unnerved by what he saw in the older man's eyes.
"You'll stay with her? You'll watch out for her?"
The man's tone was flat, his voice all gravel and exhaustion. He rose from his seat, slowly putting his jacket back on.
"Of course I'll stay, but Mr. Sullivan don't you think you should-- I mean-- Chloe needs you now."
"You're a good friend Clark. I'm sorry." he enigmatically called back as he disappeared down the hallway.
Clark dosed on and off in the waiting room chairs. One moment itching to get in to see Chloe, the next minute terrified for eight o'clock to roll around. As the morning hours approached people started to arrive. Surprisingly, Lex was the first to show at around seven, saying he heard news when he'd woken that morning of Chloe being found and came straight to the hospital, figuring Clark would already be there.
"So what do they know so far? Where was she found, in what condition?"
Clark shook his head. "I honestly don't know. I know she's alive, but she was found in pretty bad shape. They want to keep her in the hospital for a few weeks."
"I'm so sorry, Clark. Who found her? Any leads on her abductors?"
"No, I guess not, but nobody found her Lex, she found herself. She escaped."
At that, Lex was suddenly speechless. Clark would have cracked a smile if it had been in him. He knew Chloe would feel pretty satisfied knowing she had struck Lex Luthor dumb. His face betrayed how highly impressed he was, but there was sadness creeping through. A strange combination to see. Lex sat with Clark for nearly an hour until Lana and his parents arrived at the start of visiting hours. Lex quietly excused himself as he noticed the Kent's approach, wanting to give them some time. He told Clark he'd be by in the afternoon to pay Chloe a visit.
"Hi sweetie." His mom cooed, wrapping a big hug around him, smoothing back his hair as she released her embrace. She looked concerned but said nothing else.
"Hi Clark."Lana's greeting was muttered shyly. She seemed a little uncomfortable being around him. He would have to apologize for being so distant this past month. They would need each other's support if they were going to help Chloe.
"Have you been in to see her yet, son?" his father was asking now.
"No, I've been waiting, but visiting hours start in a couple of minutes."
"Where's Gabe?"Again his father, always getting right to the point.
"He left a few hours ago, Dad, but he got to see Chloe before he left. I'm sure he'll be back soon."
Even as he said it, Clark knew he wouldn't be seeing Chloe's father come around here again. That look in his eyes when he left-- he wouldn't be coming back.
The hospital seemed to be waking with the day. The morning shift was coming on, relieving the fallen faces of those who'd been there all night. Clark was regaining his earlier bout of hope now that he had company. He felt ready to face Chloe. He turned to them, grateful for their presence.
"I'm going to try to get in to see her."
The nurse at the desk was kind, saw his impatience and led him down the hall to her room. He stood outside for a moment, feeling a resurgence of that anxiety, worried about what he would find there. He pushed the door open and stepped through tentatively. Peeking in to watch her for a moment, lying in that hospital bed, he saw she was curled up on her side. Her back was to him and he noticed right away how long her hair had gotten, how her shoulder blades protruded prominently through the thin hospital gown.
"Chloe?" he ventured.
No response. She was probably asleep or sedated. He entered the room, trying to be quiet. He was comfortable with the idea of sitting in the chair next to her bed while she slept. He eased into the seat, calmly settling in. Watching her breathe, he felt a surge of affection for his friend, a protectiveness, a strong sense of love.
"What are you doing here Clark?"
He nearly jumped out of his seat, his heartbeat sent skyrocketing.
"Jesus, Chloe, I thought you were asleep. Um, whew..." He cleared his throat, collecting himself, "How are you feeling?"
She didn't turn around, didn't stir at all. He suddenly felt very strange. He felt a wrongness in the room.
"Why did you come?"
"We were all so worried about you." There was hesitation in his voice. He felt unsure about her question, her voice wasn't quite right. "So many days without hearing anything, it was hard to keep up hope that you would be..." He faltered then, "I was so terrified. The police asked me so many questions because I was the last to see you, but there wasn't much I could tell them. I blamed myself for not knowing something, anything to help them with their investigation. I blamed myself for-- well, a lot of things. I still do, I guess."
God, what was he saying? He was babbling. He hadn't intended to say any of this, hadn't intended to start talking about himself of all things, hadn't thought she would be awake. Christ.
"I don't want you here Clark. I want you to leave."
He felt like he'd been slapped. This was a nightmare. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Couldn't believe that she would say something like that to him. He knew it was hardly fair, but he expected some kind of forgiveness, not this flatness, this hollow tone in her voice.
"Maybe I should come back later when you're feeling better."
He was standing now, heading toward the door.
"I don't want you coming back here."
He felt his body go cold. Something was wrong, really wrong. He wanted to believe that she was acting like this because she blamed him for letting her be taken by rapists, torturers. Or maybe because she was on too much medication to know what she was saying, but there was no hurt in her voice, no anger. He could hear no grogginess. Her voice was calm and smooth as ice. He felt something akin to panic. Helpless, he walked out without another word. Out of the room, past his family's inquisitive looks and questions from Lana. Off the floor, out of the hospital. Escaping.
Clark kept to himself for the next few days, concentrating on his chores. Something mindless and distracting. His parents pretty much left him alone, probably his father's idea. He could practically hear the conversation now.
Jonathan, he's hurting. Something happened in that room that upset him. I'm worried that he's acting this sullen. He's not even confiding in any of his friends, I don't want this to be another shut-out like a month ago.
He's a strong boy, Martha. He came out okay from that rough spell at the beginning of all this; he just needs some time to work through this too. If he needs us, he'll let us know.
Clark gave a little smirk at the though of that exchange. His parents were so simple, so trusting in the idea that, for good people, things turned out well in the end. He supposed he was that way too. He couldn't deny that his own thought process was similar. Hell, he practically convinced himself at the hospital that love and good-will from family and friends could fix Chloe up in no time. But when she spoke, it had been so strange. There was a darkness in her voice he didn't recognize. That hadn't been his Chloe in that hospital room and the thought terrified him. He wanted her back. He needed her back.
Lana didn't come to see him until about three days after watching him rush out of the hospital. He was impressed she waited so long, probably his parents doing. When she finally did come he was sitting outside, watching the sky. Not even noticing her approach, the sound of shoes on the porch steps snapped him out of his thoughts. He felt easily distracted lately.
"Hey." She said gently. "Nice night isn't it?"
"Lana. How are you?" This was awkward.
"I'm fine, but worried about you, Clark. You've disappeared on us again."
"No, not really. Not like last time. I'm just keeping a low profile."
"Especially at the hospital I've noticed."
She didn't say it in an accusing way, more like pity, but he felt the accusation just the same.
"You've been visiting?"
He was slightly surprised to hear it. For some reason he thought Chloe would tell them all to get lost. Maybe this was about her blaming him for what happened. The thought gave him a strange sense of comfort. He could deal with personal blame. The change he thought he felt in Chloe the other day was a much more terrifying prospect.
"How is she?"
"She had surgery yesterday to repair her cheekbone. Her face is going to be swollen and bruised for awhile, but she's finally getting some color back in her skin. She doesn't look quite so... gray."
She finished uncomfortably. Clark nodded his head slightly, encouraging her to keep going.
"Why haven't you been to see her Clark? I know it's not easy to see her like this, but I think it might help her if you were there. I mean, with her father pulling a disappearing act and then you following suit-- I guess I'm just afraid she'll start to think her support system is abandoning her."
"Lana, she asked me not to come back. She doesn't want to see me."
He was surprised at the venom in his response. He hadn't meant it to come out quite like that, to put so much anger and blame in his voice. Lana looked slightly taken aback.
"I'm sure she didn't mean it like that. It was the first day she'd seen anyone, she wasn't herself."
"Is she any more herself now, Lana?"
"She's getting better." Her reply was sheepish, unsure in the face of his exasperation.
Clark sighed, leaning back onto the porch swing. This conversation was exhausting; he wanted it to be over.
"Clark," she said sweetly, coming to sit next to him, placing a hand on him knee, "You've always been Chloe's favorite, I've always felt that you two had the most in common, were the most alike, you know? It always made me a little jealous. Our whole lives you two have had your little co-conspirator club. Always bouncing ideas off of each other, having crazy debates about things, cracking each other up with little comments and inside jokes that went over everybody else's heads. I know that this past month has been the hardest for you out of all of us. You've been blaming yourself and feeling responsible for what's happened to her, and the one person who could have given you the kind of comfort you needed was the one person you couldn't get to. Despite everyone's best efforts I know it's been lonely for you and I'm sure it was ten times worse for Chloe. She needs you Clark, just like you need her. No matter what she might tell you I know that it's true."
Clark sat still as a stone, trying to suppress the tears burning in his eyes. Lana was right, she was so right. Chloe needed him, whether she realized it or not.
"Maybe I'll try again." He managed to choke out.
Lana smiled, placing a kiss on his cheek before walking away without saying another word. She accomplished her mission of diplomacy and tomorrow he'd go visit Chloe again and try his own hand at diplomatic efforts.
Clark felt good the next morning after his talk with Lana. She revived some of his optimism. He even scolded himself a little for giving up so easily. He left the house early, heading straight for the truck and was surprised to see Pete standing there waiting for him. No word from anyone in three days and then two visitors in less than twenty-four hours.
"Lana told me you might go see Chloe today." Pete started, not wasting any time with small talk this morning.
"I was just heading out..."
"I don't think that would be such a good idea."
Clark let out a short confused laugh, but Pete remained serious, "What's going on here Pete?"
"I think Lana is being a little overly optimistic about the situation."
"But last night she said Chloe was doing better."
It was Pete's turn to let out a sad little chuckle, "I think it would be closer to the truth to say that Lana's getting better at being around Chloe."
"Pete-- you're freaking me out. What are you talking about?"
"Should I describe to you what our visits are like?" Pete's voice was harsh on the words, "Lana twitters on and on to Chloe about business at the Talon, local events, town gossip. Nervously jabbering for an hour straight without even taking too long to pause between sentences. Worried about what Chloe might talk about if given the chance, I'm sure. Not that she really has much to worry about; Chloe spends the time staring out the window, or watching Lana like she's got two heads. Not that I can blame her, Lana acts so obviously strange and uncomfortable around her."
"I don't understand..."
"Chloe is not herself, Clark. She's different. During those visits I watched her. It's like she's living inside her head or something. Like none of this matters to her anymore," he finished, gesturing around them vaguely.
"She's been through a lot, it's going to take some time..."
"Maybe you're right, Clark. I hope you're right." They paused for a moment, letting the conversation linger around them. "I tried to talk with her yesterday, alone," Pete began, more subdued now, "I started getting all choked up, you know? I was trying to tell her how it felt, how hard it was not knowing where she was all those weeks. How it seems even harder now that she's back, but out of our reach somehow. Like the Chloe we know is still missing."
"You told her that?"
Pete nodded. Clark was impressed and horrified that Pete had laid out all that honesty on someone who probably wasn't ready. Chloe needed to be comforted, not confronted.
"She looked right at me and said, `I'm sorry Pete, but I think that girl you knew was beaten right out of me.' And then she smiled in this casual, strange way like she had cracked a joke. It was awful; like she didn't even care we were worried. Like she didn't even care about what had been done to her. As if it was all old news and something more important had already started to occupy her mind."
"Why are you telling me all this?" Clark asked, frustrated. He found this confrontation with Pete strange, and more than a little disturbing.
"Because it's hard to be around her, Clark, and not just because she looks beat up or because it's hard to know what to say, but because she doesn't want us there. Maybe you're the only one she told outright, but maybe that's a testament to how much she respects you, or once did anyway."
"I can't believe you're giving up on her so easily."
Clark couldn't hide the disbelief on his face. He had the strange sensation of not being able to catch his breath. Pete began nodding his head slightly. A little `huh' escaped his lips as if to say, I thought you'd understand what I'm getting at but I guess you don't. His look was one of disappointment and he turned to walk away, leaving Clark standing alone, unsettled and confused.
"Pete..." he called after him, his tone apologetic.
"I'm not going to visit her anymore, Clark, and I think you would do well to stay away too. She already told you once. Don't make her do it again." Pete called over his shoulder as he got in his truck.
Clark stood there staring after him. Lana the voice of hope vs. Pete the voice of doom.
Clark didn't make it to visit Chloe that day.
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