I've been working on The Yard--when in doubt about how to write Lex in a deliriously happy AU (and God, Suz, you're right, who the hell *else* would freak out when they give Lex The Perfect Life?), go back to where everyone is dusty and miserable and, you know, underground.
At the end of this post, I have a general question.
This is where I am in the editorial process, pretty much.
People came and went, just outside the door, never quite venturing to open it. Clark was glad of that, still half beneath Lex's limp body, unwilling to move, but he still had laser vision and thought that might be enough.
For what, he didn't know, and honestly didn't care. If they came in, they'd find out.
But they didn't, and Lex slept on, closer to unconsciousness than true sleep, sweat standing on his skin. They'd given him sedatives, James had told him in a quiet whisper, and they'd wanted to give him more, but he'd said he had to get up, had to get Clark, didn't believe what they'd told him about the rock being gone, Clark being safe. He'd wanted to *see*. He had grudged them the time it took to sling his arm.
Clark hadn't seen it before, hadn't registered it as there. Just a thick piece of cloth, roughly pinned to a strap, hold the arm and--nothing else. X-ray had shown what Clark hadn't wanted to look for. Lex had lost his hand to the wrist.
James had said, "It was an accident. Pete was trying to get them out and one grabbed Lex. He did the only thing he could."
Lex whimpered, a sound Clark had never heard, never wanted to again.
James had said, "It was fast. They cauterized it in the field and got him back fast. They--it'll be okay. He'll be okay. He didn't lose too much blood, they said."
Just too pale, too still, and Clark laid back gingerly on the pillow, wishing the angle was right, that he could pull Lex closer, block him from the door, from the world, with his own body. His own perfectly fine, perfectly invulnerable body. The body that could have protected Lex and kept him safe, not left like this, not--not--
"God, Lex," Clark whispered against the dingy cotton. He didn't dare move more than this--his body kept Lex unmoving, no way to shift and hurt his arm, on his back, so still it took effort to see him breathe. But God, he wanted to touch him. Smooth away the lines on his forehead, around his eyes, touch the lips thinned with pain, like even in sleep, Lex could feel it.
They cauterized it on the field. Clark couldn't imagine what that must have felt like. Couldn't imagine--couldn't even comprehend--
"They used a staff," James had said. "It--the heat--was enough. To get him back here. He would have bled to death if they hadn't."
Clark shuddered, staring at Lex's tense face.
"He'll be okay," James had said, and then he left, closing the door carefully behind him, as loathe to disturb Lex's uneasy rest as Clark. If anything like this could be called rest, with Lex's head shifting against the wall, muscles bunching every so often, like even sleep brought no relief.
The next shift went wrong--Lex's arm hit Clark's knee, and Clark watched the blue eyes flicker open. No second of confusion, no relief of even a moment--just knowing, blinking quickly, the look of pain on his face going way beyond physical. His head turned, fixing on Clark, and Clark watched as he shoved his arm closer to his body, like he was trying to hide it.
"Don't." Sitting up, Clark shifted over to the edge of the bed, pulling his legs from under Lex. Carefully--had to be careful, had to get this right, everything had to be right or Lex would pull so far away Clark would never find him again--he coaxed Lex up the bed, watching the wary, awkward settle into the bed, on the pillow. Lex wouldn't meet his eyes. "Lex. How--do you want something?" James said they gave him sedatives. Painkillers? Something, God, anything. Clark watched Lex's face clench. "Do you need--I can ask if they have something--"
"It doesn't hurt." It was a lie, not even a good one, but Clark didn't move, didn't dare. He had no idea how Lex would take it if he did. "I'm okay. It--they stopped the bleeding fast."
With that green staff that took the hand in the first place. Clark bit into his inner cheek to keep from asking any questions. If Lex wanted to tell, he would. Asking wouldn't get him anything but short answers. Slowly, Clark laid back down, curling on his side. There wasn't much space between them, leaving Clark half-off the bed, but it would take a shitload more kryptonite than had ever existed anywhere to move him away. He could feel Lex trying to draw back, melt into the stone, and that wouldn't do at all. "Lex. I'm so sorry."
Stupid, inadequate words that made Lex flinch, eyes fixing on the wall behind Clark, the ceiling, anywhere but at him. Lex flinched again when Clark reached out, but he ignored it, touching the silky skin of Lex's jaw with a careful hand. He needed the contact. He thought Lex might, too, even with his personal space issues. And he'd never rejected Clark's touch.
"I'm *fine*. I'm just maimed." The bitterness was sharp, and Lex would have pulled away if the wall hadn't stopped him. "I lost a hand, not my life."
Clark shifted closer, telling himself that he'd fall off the bed if he didn't. It was a lie. He needed--God, did he need to feel Lex there. In that room, with that rock, it was the only thing that kept making sense; after the words had stopped, the concept stayed, unmovable, irrefutable. Lex would come back. Lex *did* come back. He was here, and he was alive, and he'd lost his hand to Pete's insanity and they had failed, but Lex was *alive*, and that was all that really mattered.
Clark struggled for something to say--something to bring Lex back to him, bring him back in the room, get that horrible, distant look off his face. "Uh--I. I guess it's a good thing that you're left handed."
Oh God. Clark blinked at his own words. God. He hadn't--he didn't--and Lex was looking at him now, all right, staring at him like he'd grown antenna and was living up to the word 'alien' in every clichéd, X-Filey meaning of the word.
"Yes, there is that." Lex's voice broke, but the distance was gone. And Lex was looking straight at him, seeing him, right arm tucked defensively against his body, but his left reached out, and Clark took it, raising it to his face, shutting his eyes when the cool fingers shaped themselves to his jaw. "You're--okay?"
Clark's grin wobbled, but he didn't mind. "Right as rain." He sounded so much like his dad that he laughed, just so--Lex was alive, against bad odds and he was on this bed, here, and Clark just wanted to kiss that small smile.
It was probably the worst time he could have admitted that to himself, and right this second, he didn't care.
"You're going to be fine," Clark told him, moving closer, keeping hold of Lex's hand in case he had some idea of pulling away. "I'm fine. *We're* fine. We're going to figure out a way to get back home. Both of us." And he believed it. When Lex looked like that, when he needed so much--God, Clark could feel the need like heat off of him, no idea what it was Lex needed, but he'd give him anything right now, anything at all, to keep that small smile.
Their clothes brushed. Clark had never been so aware of another person as he was of Lex at this moment, in all the wrong ways, or the right ones, if he was honest. Best friend, still true, more true now than ever. The need to protect--it had always been there, always, he knew that, felt it the first time he touched him on the bank of that muddy excuse for a river. This--this was new. Not entirely new, not since Lucas came to town and whirled out again, not since the first time he realized he was watching Lex move just because he liked it, but this time, he could *feel* it. Lex, here and close, smelling of antiseptics and sweat and blood, but still Lex. Lex, who needed comfort and didn't know how to ask for it, even really know that was what he wanted at all. Clark let Lex's hand slip from his face but didn't let it go. He wasn't sure there was anything that could make him.
Protect. "You should sleep." He kept his smile on his face when he said it. "I--kinda think we both do. I've never felt this tired."
Instantly, Lex was trying to get up on one elbow, looking him over. "That shit--did it do something to you?" Forgetting, if only for a second, what he'd lost, all that focus on Clark and Clark alone. He'd missed it when he hadn't had it, and Clark basked in it, wondering if Lex could see it in his face.
"No, really, I'm just tired. It was--" Forever. He bit down on the words, watching Lex's face. "Just stay here, okay? I--" Saying Lex was weakened from everything would be so incredibly stupid even Clark knew better than to try it. "I'll feel better if I know you're okay." And that was totally true.
Lex slowly relaxed back into the cot, sharp eyes still running over Clark as if he was looking for visible wounds. Kryptonite didn't do that. All the scars were in Clark's mind and would stay there. "You're sure?"
"Very. Come on, get some rest. I need it, and you probably do too." Lex was trembling, though he tried to hide it. "Let me--let me ask for something for you?"
"They don't have anything."
Clark felt his teeth grind together. This *place*--a place where humans hid in caves and couldn't ease pain. "When they--" His voice froze in his throat. "On the field. They--" It sank like a stone into his stomach.
"I was conscious."
Clark moved, almost crushing Lex into the wall. He couldn't help it; touching Lex with both hands, feeling him, strong muscle and shaking body, damp skin. Shock, Clark thought, dragging out memories of biology and ER at nine every Thursday night. Blood loss. Pain like Clark couldn't imagine. And Lex was conscious. "Lex."
Lex's hand touches his face again, right arm clutched to his stomach still. Lex couldn't hold him with his left, but Clark could hold him. Space issues be damned. Clark held him, letting his forehead rest against Lex's. "Tell me. Tell me what happened."
Lex didn't remember anything from the second two of Pete's little squadron dragged him out of the building and slumping into the Buick with someone wrapping a piece of rope around the stump where his hand used to be.
"You'll be okay," Pete said from the driver's seat, bloody and ashen, driving like the entirety of the Kryptonian forces were after them. They weren't, and Lex wanted to ask about that, wonder, but he could barely think through the pain.
"He's losing blood fast." One of the idiots that came along for this hell. Lex tried to draw breath, but his voice was shot to hell and he couldn't get enough air to do anything, even scream. Bleeding to death. His hand was gone, but he thought he could feel it, which made sense, phantom pain, but--God, his hand was gone.
They pulled him out of the car, stopping at the side of the road, and someone had his head in their lap, and someone was holding his arms down, and there was Pete and his fucking staff, the one that had sliced through flesh and bone, so fast Lex hadn't registered the pain until they were almost topside again. None of this made sense--not this mission, not this run without a pursuer in sight, and certainly not this--not these people holding him down and Pete aiming the staff at--
"No," he heard himself whisper, and soothing noises came from somewhere above him, pushing something between his teeth that tasted like wood. He tried to spit it out, turning his head, and he wished he hadn't when he saw that beam hit the ground and those bastards move his arm into it.
Nothing could match it. It was being maimed all over again, and third degree burn heat, charring skin and bone, turning the bloody cloth wrapped around the stump to ash. A normal human would have passed out, their own bodies shutting them down from this much input, but Lex's didn't, clinging stubbornly to consciousness as it went on and on, nerves screaming up his arm and down his body--everything hurt. Like he was being bathed in fire that would never end, even when the beam did, when they rewrapped the stump in the remains of someone's shirt and it formed around the wound. No blood. Cauterized.
The three hours back to the caves were three years that never ended. Not when they carried him downstairs and stretched him out on a makeshift operating table that they'd used for strategy less than a day before, the straps that went over him that he instinctively fought, cinched tight, and the smell of chloroform filling the air from the cloth they held to his nose.
*Chloroform*. It hit him all anew that second--this wasn't his world. They didn't have anesthesiologists and surgeons and bright, clean, metal-filled operating theatres. They had this dusty cave and chloroform and simple scalpels and needles that didn't look like surgical needles at all.
Lex saw Helen standing in that far-away room, looking at him from under blood-splattered hair, tired eyes, the cuts on her hands. They were out of anesthesia again, he thought, blankly. They weren't just out anymore. They didn't have it at all.
"Get Clark out," Lex heard himself say, hoped they heard him, and they said that they had, he was fine, that he'd called earlier and they'd took him out. Lex didn't remember that, but he didn't remember anything right now that wasn't this pain. Chloroform didn't do shit. It made him high, made him sick, but it didn't stop it. Blurry eyes focused as they went down on his arm, and Lex watched bloody, blackened skin fall away with every silvery cut.
He couldn't stop watching, and he couldn't stop feeling. And his throat reminded him that he couldn't make himself stop screaming.
Clark, he thought, watching the flash of the needle, the scalpel, the shapes of people around him, holding his straining body down. God, let him be okay, and it's worth it. It'll be worth it.
Clark left Lex just long enough to find James, conveniently sitting outside their door. "You said sedatives. No painkillers?"
James slowly shook his head, mouth tight. "We don't have much call for them. But we have sleep stuff, if that'll help him."
"Where can we get painkillers?"
James stared at him, eyes wide, chewing slowly on his bottom lip as he thought. "I dunno. The other groups--they are long gone, and no one knows where they are but the leaders."
The leader they had was currently still incarcerated. Clark tried to think. He knew shit about medication. Ibuprofen, aspirin, but they didn't have anything but *chloroform*? Not even any damned morphine?
Metropolis, they might have it, but Clark wouldn't know where to look, even if he could afford the risk. If he was caught, Lex would be alone, and look what happened if Clark wasn't there to watch out for him. Hell if he was leaving Lex in their keeping, even for a second.
A figure coming out of one of the other caves caught his eye. Pete. Pete, who caused this, did this, cut Lex's hand off in some asinine attempt at a rescue, burned it after in green fire. Clark didn't think--he moved. Faster than he'd ever let a human but his family and Lex see before, and Pete was against the wall, staring down at him with bulging eyes, feet kicking helplessly at raw stone.
"I could kill you before you could take another breath," Clark gritted out between clenched teeth. Pete's eyes bugged out, lips working soundlessly. "He needs painkillers. Get them."
He held Pete up a little longer, some part of him amazed how easy it was to separate this Pete and his Pete. So easy. All it had taken was a glance at Lex's sweaty body, pale face, right arm. Leaning close, Clark stared into the huge eyes. "You can lock me in that room with kryptonite again, you can fucking *feed* it to me, but it won't stop me from doing to you what you did to him. I swear, I'll make you *hurt* before I'm done. Find him something. I don't care how you do it, just fucking *do* it."
Stepping back, Clark stared down at Pete. That room made his skin crawl, and the dangerous look in Pete's eyes reminded him of every second there, and who the hell would *stop* him? Clark shoved it all away, focusing everything in him on staring Pete down, making him believe that Clark could do that.
Clark *could*. He would. Never in his life had he ever been so sure of anything, not even that rush of hate that made him want to hurt Phelan, but the ethics that brought him back down then didn't exist now. Nothing could match Lex shaking in his arms, cradling his maimed arm, almost *dying* for--
Clark thought of everything his parents ever told him, about his powers, about the person he was supposed to be, and then let it go. It was surprisingly easy. "Try me."
Turning away, Clark saw James's open mouth in peripheral vision, but he couldn't bother to stop, going back in and shutting the door behind him, going back to Lex, half-conscious and whispering. Shock, his mind said. Blood loss. Infection, fever, and his own enhanced healing might be enough to keep him alive, but it wouldn't help the pain.
Curling up beside him, Clark stared into his face and hoped Pete understood, really *understood*, that Clark would do it. Kal wasn't so far away right now, close enough beneath his skin to touch, to use, like a weapon with a single target.
Pete would do it, Clark thought, touching Lex's sweaty forehead with shaking fingers. He had to, because Lex was riding on this, and Clark was, too. He could be Clark Kent with just threats, but he wasn't sure who he would be if Pete refused, if he failed. He just knew that what Clark Kent wouldn't, couldn't do, in another time and another place, he *could*.
Okay, this is just a thought. This story isn't finished. It will be, and I mean this. It will be, I'm just not sure how long it will take. The first part is complete in itself--it's been through one round of editing, and I'm going through it now for another round and then for pacing, a la RivkaT's second edits. Would it be really annoying if I posted the first part alone, knowing that the ETA on the second is up in the air? If anyone wants to read it, I'll post it, with the caveat that the second part is in production but nowhere near being up for beta, much less final editing. So it might be a while.
I promised myself I would not post another WiP, considering it's been over a *year* since I started this--closing on two, actually--but. I don't know. I already posted some of it, and it's still there, mocking me, and God, it has some werid errors in it that bother me.