A STEP AT A TIME

Disclaimer: Sigh nothing changes, still don't own anything to do with Smallville or Superman™ or anything to do with the CW. And yep I am still just a poor writer and student ... no money to be made here.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey all first apologies for lack of updates, from end of uni, to computer over heating and packing up on me to the loaner being so old and slow to the sinus attack I had it has been a helluva couple of last weeks.

Anyhoo I have rewritten this chapter and made it longer, after rereading it I didn't like some bits with Lana and had it heading in the wrong direction, I hope this new and revised chapter will be a lot clearer and enjoyable.


CHAPTER 4 Time to go home, time to stay away?

Clark moaned and opened his eyes dreading to see where he was now, his body ached interminably from the lashes laced with kryptonite and his head felt as though it was going to explode.

Cracking one eye open he blinked and then let the other open and focus, he was still in the cave, alone and surrounded by a green light, slowly he managed to sit up and then using the wall for leverage to stand. Staggering he headed towards the light; tentatively he reached out and hissed in pain as he touched the barrier. His veins pulsated with an unholy dark green making his stomach churn and he dropped to his knees once again.

'Clark?' A quiet female voice came from the other side of the barrier making him lift his head and try to focus on where it came from.

'Mom?' He whispered, 'no Mom get out of here.'

'Oh Clark.' Martha cried out when she saw her son beaten, bleeding and trapped behind a glowing wall of light.

'No Mom please get out of here.' Clark cried out again.

'I have to get you out of here Clark.' Martha said determinedly.

'Clark hang on we're gonna get you free.' Chloe chimed in coming to stand next to Martha. Clark's gaze went from one woman to the other, his love and admiration reflecting in his green eyes.

'No, no he'll be back. Chloe please get Mom out of here.'

'Who Clark? Who will come back?' Chloe asked as she inspected the outside of his prison.

'He calls himself Oren he says ... that he knew my father and that he was in the phantom zone.'

'Oh Clark.'

'Mom I can't ... I can't promise ... I can feel the pull.' Clark panted swaying dizzily on his knees he pushed his hands against the ground trying to steady himself, 'I can feel the pull ... it hurts.'

'Honey please look at me ... what pull?'

'I – I can feel Kal-El the child wanting to come back.' Clark panted the effort of staying clear in his mind etched across his face, 'it hurts so much.' He whispered.

'Clark focus on me sweetheart, Chloe and I ... we'll get you free.'

'No Mom it's too late.' He whimpered as the pain and effort became too much and he slumped face forward, his muscular body jerking with tiny spasms.

'Oh my ... Chloe look at Clark's back.' Martha gasped pointing to her son, 'what has that monster done?'

'We're going to get him free Mrs Kent I promise.' Chloe said forcing herself to pull her gaze away from his torn and bleeding back, 'hey ahh I think I've found something.'

Chloe knelt down and pressed her fingers along a small row of buttons, taking a deep breath she pushed down on the first one, a gasp escaping with her held breath as she saw the green light intensify. Swallowing deeply she pushed the next one and it returned to normal, the next dulled it and then the last one seemed to turn the lights off. Martha rushed to her son's side, gently rolled him over onto his side and held his head on her lap. 'Clark sweetheart you have to wake up.' She said stroking his cheek gently, 'Clark come on wake up.'

'Mommy?' Clark blinked and stared up at his mother's tearstained face, 'Mommy why you crying?'

'I – I'm just happy to see you.' Martha said, 'can you stand up for Mommy?'

'My – my back feels funny Mommy.'

'I know sweetheart, but once I can get you home I can fix it.'

'Ah nice to meet the human mother of Kal-El.' A deep masculine voice startled Martha looking up she stared in horror at the man holding Chloe captive. 'Unfortunately time is against us, we need to get going.'

'You're not taking my son anywhere.' Martha declared placing Clark behind her, 'who are you?'

'I am the one who will redeem Kal-El and restore him to his rightful destiny.'

'How, by reverting him to a childlike state? Oh now I understand as a child you can warp his mind.'

'That is a crude way of putting it but...'

'Never going to happen.'

'Listen I do not have time for this, Kal-El come to me now.' Oren ordered tightening his grip on Chloe's arm, making her wince in pain, she could feel her elbow ready to pop.

'Get out of here Mrs Kent and take Clark I'll be fine.' Chloe said suddenly, 'go please.'

'Mommy?' Clark whimpered, he felt like he should go to Oren but he wanted his mother too.

'Clark I ...' Martha stood torn in what to do, her first instinct was to get her son out of the caves and far away from the man but then Chloe was in so much danger.

'Go Mrs Kent please.' Chloe insisted, 'I'll be fine.'

'Kal-El now.' Oren commanded tiring of the human interference in his plans.

'Go Mrs Kent.' Chloe said at the same time.

Taking a deep breath Martha gripped Clark's hand and nodded at Chloe, 'I'll be back for you Chloe.' She said as she hurried out dragging her confused son with her, when she felt Clark go lax in her grip, turning around she watched in horror as Clark collapsed unconscious at her feet, a look of pure agony masked his face. 'Clark ... no.'

'Step away from the boy and leave.' Oren snarled violently pushing Chloe towards Martha, 'you humans have contaminated him enough.'

'You are not getting near my son.' Martha yelled placing herself in front of Clark as she helped Chloe to stay on her feet.

'Such foolish creatures.' Oren snarled, 'do you know what I can do to you?'

'Do you know what I can do to you?' A honey-smooth voice came from the entrance of the cave, three startled faces turned in the direction.

'Lana?' Martha and Chloe gasped at the sametime.

'What another puny human female?' Oren sneered, 'where are the men of this species?'

'Not bothering with creeps like you.' Lana said as she aimed her handgun and released the safety. Smiling coldly she took another step forward to place her friends and Clark behind her, 'no matter who you think you are.' Coolly she squeezed the trigger and watched as the bullet lodged itself in the alien's shoulder and then aimed another shot this time to his right thigh, the big man tumbled to the ground, screaming in frustration and shock.

Turning Lana pocketed her gun and hurried to the others, 'hurry I have a feeling that it won't be long and he will be fighting fit again.'

'Clark sweetheart can you wake up for me please?' Martha asked tapping Clark's face lightly, slowly his eyes fluttered open and she was greeted with glassy green eyes staring slightly unfocused at her.

'Mom?' Clark muttered and tried to stand but failed his first two attempts. 'Mom I – I'm so tired.'

'You can rest when we get you home Clark.' Martha chided him gently, 'first we have to get you up and going.'

'Chloe? Lana? What are you?'

'Questions later Clark we have to go.' Lana said helping Martha to steady him, his arms looped over their shoulders. Chloe raced over, making a wide berth of Oren's body and dropped down next to the panel, she hit the two buttons she needed to activate the shields and to turn them right up in intensity.

'Should keep him busy.'

'Kryptonite doesn't affect him.' Clark muttered forgetting about Lana for a moment.

'Ah let's get you out of here Clark.' Martha said glancing up at his pale face and glazed eyes, 'Honey you still with us?'

'Mom?' Clark whispered, 'home?'

'Yes sweety we're going home.'

Driving as fast as Martha dared they, headed back to the Kent farm while Chloe cradled Clark's head on her lap in the backseat and Lana followed in her car. 'Mrs Kent what are you ... we going to do about Lana?' Chloe finally asked, 'she probably saw and heard everything.'

'We'll see what she says and play it by ear ... how, how is he?'

'I think he's asleep again, why isn't his back healing like usual?'

'Kryptonite injuries and infections take longer to heal, just as it makes him sick if he gets hurt by it or inhales, the more he gets exposed to it the longer it takes for him to heal.'

'Oh Clark.' Chloe whispered smoothing his cheek with her fingertips, she could feel the heat radiating from him. 'Mrs Kent he's burning up.'

'We're nearly there.' Martha said as she took the last turn to the farm, 'is he?'

'Yeah still asleep ... or unconscious.' Chloe muttered the last word not wanting to distress the older woman anymore.

Kicking up the dust down the driveway Martha finally skidded to a halt and jumped out of her car, running up to the door she unlocked it and then went to help Chloe manoeuvre Clark out of the car just as Lana pulled up behind them. 'Here let me help.' She called running up she took over from Martha allowing the woman to go ahead of them.

'Bring him into the living room.' Martha said stripping the cushions from the couch she ran to the closet and grabbed the spare pillow and blanket, easing Clark down onto his stomach they lifted his legs up and covered them with the blanket. Both young women breathless with the effort.

'Wow Mrs Kent he's heavier than he looks.' Chloe laughed softly.

'So true, just like his father.' Martha mused her eyes misting.

'Mom?' Clark groaned and tried to lift his head but let it fall back against the pillow deciding it was too much effort.

'Hey Clark.' Martha said brushing away sudden tears, 'how you feeling?'

'Okay, sore but ... what happened?'

'What do you remember Clark?'

'Ah the cave, Oren he, he ... says he is here to help me fulfil my destiny.' Clark got the words out after a few seconds.

'Okay how about I fix up your back, Chloe can you make a pot of tea? Make Clark's nice and sweet with a lot of milk for shock. Lana can you open all of the blinds and curtains let as much sun in here as possible?'

'The sun in?' Lana stared in disbelief at Martha not sure of what she witnessed at the cave and now this?

'Sure thing Mrs Kent.' Chloe beamed and dragged a confused looking Lana with her.

'Clark honey let me see your back.' Martha said softly shifting slightly so she could get a better look. 'Oh sweetheart.' She gasped when she saw the long welts crisscrossing his bare back, some partially healed and others still raw and weeping. Two of them looked infected and crusted with a thick green substance. 'What did he do to you?'

'Lana? She was there?' Clark muttered, 'I – I don't...'

'She was there, she must have followed us Clark I'm sorry.'

'No, no Mom it's okay.' Clark said wincing when he felt her lightly cleaning the wounds. 'She heard everything?'

'I think so, Clark she was the one who shot Oren.'

'Shot him?' Clark lifted his head and frowned at his mother, 'kryptonite doesn't affect him but he can get shot?'

'Something tells me that it won't last for long.'

'No, he's stronger than me Mom, he's not Kryptonian but Jor-El had him imprisoned in the phantom zone for crimes against the House of El.'

'What are you going to do Clark?'

'I – I need to get to Jor-El but if Oren is ...'

'Clark you are in no condition to go anywhere.'

'I have to Mom, he's going to come looking for me and he will hurt you or even worse.'

'First we get you fixed up and then we'll work something out, Clark you have pieces of meteor rock embedded in your skin, that's why you're not healing.'

'Can ... can you get it out?'

'I can try but Clark ...'

'Just do it Mom.' Clark said as the pain became too much for him and he let unconsciousness take him once again.

'Mrs Kent is Clark?' Lana asked as she finished opening the curtains and let the warm sunlight flood the already bright room, Chloe came in just then carrying a tray laden with cups of tea and a plate of sandwiches.

'He's unconscious again.' Martha sighed wiping her bloodied hands on a wet towel, 'thanks Chloe' Gratefully she took the strong steaming tea and took a tentative sip.

'Mrs Kent, I don't want to pry but ... but I know Clark has abilities ... I've known for a while but, but why did that man call him Kal El? What is Kryptonite? And Krypton? I thought that he was just another meteor freak.' Lana sucked her breath in when she realised what she finished saying, 'oh I am so sorry I didn't mean it like that.'

'It's okay Lana, but ... it is not for me to tell you, Clark needs to do that when he is better.' Martha said diplomatically. 'It is his decision.'

'Oh okay, can I do anything? I can bring in a specialist or something?'

'No, no thanks Lana but Clark will be fine he just needs to get plenty of rest.'

The three women all looked at Clark for a moment all lost in their own thoughts, then as the sunlight reached him they stood in shock and awe as he started to heal in front of them. Martha couldn't believe it, Clark had told her about the sun healing him before but this was the first time she had actually witnessed it.

'Shelby what's wrong?' Chloe asked as the dog started to growl and snarl, dark clouds covered the sun in an instant along with a gale force wind whipping through the farm.

'Chloe?' Martha and Lana looked up as they heard a strange screeching sound.

'Oh my ... Chloe can you make sure that Shelby is inside and check the doors, Lana can you check the windows for me make sure everything is locked.'

'What is it?'

'I have a feeling it's the same creature that attacked Clark.' Martha cried out as the beating of wings echoed through the house.

Clark cried out in pain and started to thrash about on the couch reopening the welts and partially healed wounds on his tortured back; suddenly he arched and pushed his head back his neck corded and swollen as he let out a primal scream of pure pain.

The sound of the wings beating against the house mingling with the howling winds and Clark's screams of pain became deafening as they rose in a terrifying crescendo of frustration and pain.

Then as quickly as it started the noise stopped, the wind died down and sunlight once again filled the room; weeping softly Martha forced herself to move, crouching down next to Clark she put a tentative hand on his cheek and then checked for a pulse just to be sure.

'Mom?' Clark blinked a few times and tried to focus on the face hovering in front of him, 'help me.'

'What it is Clark?' Martha whispered brushing hair from her son's face gently pushing it back in the way she used to do when he woke from nightmares as a child.

'I need to get the kryptonite out of me and get into the sunshine.' His voice raspy and faint, his parched throat making it difficult for him to speak at all.

'Here Clark sip some of your tea.' Martha helped him to sit up and then held the cup for him to sip from.

Chloe and Lana moved away slightly not wanting to intrude on the private and intimate moment between mother and son, with Shelby close by they walked around the house checking to making sure none of the windows were broken, starting upstairs first then working their way down and back to the living room.

'The house seems to be intact.' Chloe said perching herself at the dining room table, still close enough to talk to Clark and Martha but far enough to give them privacy. Lana stayed by the large window, with Shelby at her side she stared unseeingly out across the paddocks trying to reconcile everything that has happened.

'All done Clark,' Martha said as she pulled the last shard of the offending rock from his back, 'Chloe can you get rid of this please?'

'Sure thing Mrs Kent.' Chloe took the covered bowl and hurried outside with it.

Clark lifted his head and gave his mother a soft smile, 'I'm okay mom.'

'Let's get you out and into that sunlight,' Martha blinked back her tears and held her hand out to her son, not to sure if it was to steady her son or herself.

Outside Clark lifted his face to the sun and closed his eyes as he became bathed in a soft golden glow. His skin moved of its own volition, knitting and sealing the numerous welts and other injuries.

Mystified Lana watched from the safety of the house, unsure of what she was seeing, 'How could Clark heal like that? If he was more than a meteorite freak then what was he?' the thoughts kept running through her mind giving her a headache, she wanted to go and hold Clark in her arms happy that he is safe and well but the overwhelming need to run overrode that thought and she hurried out to her car and took off before anyone realised what happened.

'Chloe … I …'

'Save it Clark just as long as you are back with us, that's all that matters.' Chloe grinned giving her best friend her trademark smile.

With a happy sigh Clark enveloped Chloe in a bear hug holding her close and inhaling the scent that made her Chloe Sullivan. Then he turned to his mother and with tears shining in his bright green eyes he hugged her tightly not wanting to let her go.

'I-I have to go to the fortress.' Clark said finally pulling away, 'I have to speak to Jor-El and find out about Oren.'

'Clark are you sure?' Martha chewed her lower lip as she regarded her son with tear-filmed eyes, 'what if something goes wrong and little Kal-El comes out while you are with Jor-El? I'm sorry Clark I know that he is your father but I don't trust him.'

'I know mom but I have to, it's the only way I can defeat Oren.'

'Let me come too.' Chloe chimed in, 'that way I can get you outta there if anything goes pear-shaped.'

'Chloe I can't ask you to do that.'

'No one is asking I'm telling you, so get with it Clark it's either I go or you stay.'

'You'd only follow me if I left you behind wouldn't you?'

'Oh Clark you do know me.' Chloe fluttered her eyelashes and tried to look hurt, 'shame that huh?'

'You are incorrigible Chloe Sullivan,' Martha laughed softly relieved that Clark wasn't going alone. 'Perhaps I should come too?'

'Mom!' Clark gasped and pushed away from the two women, 'look it's too dangerous why don't the two of you wait for me at the Talon?'

'So not gonna happen Clark so get over it.' Chloe said.

At the sound of a car starting up all three turned in time to see Lana speeding down the driveway, 'oh shit.' Chloe breathed she had forgotten about Lana.

'Lana?' Clark frowned trying to remember, 'she was in the cave wasn't she?'

'Yes Clark.' Martha turned to stare up at her son, 'what is it Clark?'

'How much … how much does she know?'

'Honestly? I don't know.' Martha said, 'she shot Oren twice, I'm not sure how long she was there before that, she saved our lives Clark.'

'Then why has she run now?' Clark scowled and stared at the cloud of dust Lana left in her wake, 'why has she gone?'

'I-I don't know.' Martha said glancing over at Chloe for some sign of reason.

'She hates me,' Clark muttered more to himself than to his mom or friend, 'now she knows and she hates me probably thinks I am some sort of freak.'

'No Clark … you know Lana wouldn't do that: she loves you.' Martha tried to gain Clark's attention but when she reached for him he was gone, her fingers passed through empty air. 'Oh Clark.'

TBC