Fic snippet, unfinished as yet. Critique and criticism welcomed, because I'm still trying to figure out how the summer went up to Desiree. Can possibly be loosely tied as a prequel to Intent, but I'm not entirely sure yet.
Twitching like a junkie at the sound of gunfire that never really seems to stay in the dreams where it belongs. It's like some mark, visible on the skin when he looks, and he can taste gunpowder on the back of his tongue, bitter-metal, rich, dusty, dry, and he runs his tongue over his teeth to catch the tang of blood.
Don't look. Don't see. Close your eyes.
There's dirt under his back and the trees are bent half-over, storm winds ripping through hard bark and fragile leaves, and they're surrounding him in crumpled bright green, like the meteorite in his jacket, flat against his skin, burning hot and cold and when he looks up, he can see a slice of blue sky overhead, cluttered with white clouds.
The demarcation line between what was and what is. A beautiful summer sky to remind him of when it wasn't.
Weakness, though--nausea thick and clenching every muscle, rolling in his stomach, and then his jacket's pulled off and away, tossed aside, rough hands pulling his face up, looking into the hard blue eyes that have never belonged to his father.
"Lex," he says, but the word is nothing but dry air, and the meteor rock's too far away to blame.
"What else do you want?" he asked, and something slick touches his face--metal smell of blood and it makes him want to retch, pull away, draw closer, but moving's not in the program and maybe never was. He tries to focus, but there's nothing but intense blue filling his vision like the sky above, and Lex is saying, saying….
Nixon's scent is smeared over them both. Nothing will ever wash this away.
"Isn't one life enough, Clark?"
He wakes up in a cold sweat and doesn't sleep again.
The Ferrari's some kind of sign, though of what, Clark can't be sure. Parked in front of the Talon, flawless surface an uncomfortable contrast to the dusty, storm-stained trucks and broken cars shuffling along beside it, it says something, something big and obvious, like a sign in the window, These Things Don't Bother Me. Or maybe Lex just needed to cheer himself up, but the red's just a little too brilliant under the sun.
Clark looks away and shuffles his backpack higher, noting that the Talon's glass has already being replaced and the random bodies walking in and out at uneven intervals are workmen getting repairs underway. Lex, apparently, isn't letting any grass grow under his feet.
The asphalt of the street's cracked in a few places--nothing serious, though Clark can imagine the city board's arguments already over the cost of repairs and bids on the contracts for the removal of sections of broken road and ruined sidewalk. With a strangled sigh, Clark starts to cross, seeing John Randall mulling his broken storefront windows with a hard frown, calculating damage against insurance claims.
Smallville, Clark reflects, has really high insurance rates these days. Part and parcel of meteor rock accidents and random incidents over a decade long in time. He doesn't wince when he sees it anymore.
Inside the Talon, the remains of the relief effort can be seen in the plastic garbage bags scattered across the floor, the string that held up the signs still dangling from the ceiling. Lana's wiping down the counters, hands a dull-red testament to how long she's been working, and her single glance up is quick and needle sharp.
Lex isn't in evidence.
"Mom sent some stuff for Nell," Clark says awkwardly, lowering the backpack to the chair and watching Lana's eyes flicker briefly, looking just to the edges of his. He's not getting used to that anytime soon.
"Thanks, Clark," Lana answers, barely glancing up. Taking another step, he stops, shoving both hands into his pockets and trying not to flush at the sound of straining denim when he pushes too hard. "How's the farm?"
Oh yeah. That. "Um. Fine." Besides missing spaceships and some structural damage to the house and barn, which really aren't in the same level of concern, or shouldn't be, but Clark thinks that he may be just about done with being able to worry about anything else. With any kind of luck, the stupid ship took off back to--well, wherever the hell it came from, and maybe stay there.
The silence stretches awkwardly, and yeah, that's getting pretty damn old now. It's like Lex redux, but even less fun, because Lana's got a look on her face that Lex has never had. Some bizarre combination of hurt and betrayal, laced with frustration, and he fists both hands in his pockets and struggles for conversation. Anything. Just something that won't be a question that doesn't go any farther than Lana's eyes.
"Clark." And Lex always says Clark saved him. The relief is almost physical, and he grins at the release of tension at Lex's quizzical smile. In the office, obviously, and there's a stack of papers in his hand that might or might not be insurance forms. "How are you?"
"Good," Clark answers, shifting to his other foot as Lex sets the stack in front of Lana and turns with just a little too much speed. "You? Um, how's your dad?"
It's just a flicker--maybe he's not meant to see it, or maybe it's just his imagination, because it's gone in the time it takes for Clark to blink, settled back into passivity with an added bonus of distance, like Lex just moved about a hundred feet away and put up signs asking for no visitors.
"The doctors send me reports daily." Tilted head. "He's recovering as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Thank you."
Another awkward pause, but it's deliberate, and Clark knows it. Knows it even as he ducks his head, feeling the first flush spread across his face, and when he looks up, Lex is telling Lana something in a low voice, motioning at the papers. The conversation isn't too low to hear, but it's meant to be, which tells Clark just about everything he needs to know. Taking a breath, he slides a foot back.
"I--uh, gotta go. See you guys later."
"Bye, Clark," answers Lana, not looking up as she takes the pen from Lex. "Tell your mom thanks, okay?"
"I will." Another aborted glance at Lex, who tosses him a bright, impersonal smile, the kind you use on cranky maiden aunts and the one Lex uses on Dominic, before he turns back around, and yeah, that's called a dismissal, by the way. You may leave, Clark. Right out the door there.
Fuck. And God, if his mom heard him think that, he'd have his *brain* washed out with soap.
Pushing the door open, he vaguely misses the soft tinkle of the bell, glancing up just in time to remember that the door was only just replaced and Lana and Nell probably hadn't had time to install another bell. The day outside is glaringly hot, like the weather itself is trying it's damndest to make him uncomfortable, and okay, personalizing weather was one step from insanity. Or less.
Taking a breath of dry air, Clark fixes his gaze on the truck and walks away.
The grass is somehow wet under his feet, and Clark has no idea how he's standing, but he is. Stripping his jacket off like the meteor rock isn't even in there, though he can feel it in every vein in his body, a thick throb in time with the beat of his heart, the pound of blood in his head.
He stumbles the two steps between him and his father, kneeling on the ground, hands already going out to stop the flow of blood, and right, he's no doctor, but that looks--looks bad. Nixon's body is spilled across his dad's legs and he kicks it aside, fingers frantically trying to staunch the flow of blood, looking into blue eyes that fade more by the second.
Like the sun is sucking away the light until there's nothing left but the flattest blue, and Clark catches his breath, and Lex is here but that doesn't matter, he can fucking *run* to Metropolis if he has to. Secrets be damned. Everything else.
"Dad?" A bloodstained hand closes over his wrist--so *weak*, he didn't expect that, not at all. Strangely cool skin, rough calluses of the palm sliding over his skin like he can't quite find purchase and Clark grabs for it, holding it to his chest.
"Never tell--" The words come with a bubble of blood, and Clark's stomach rolls over, no meteor needed for this moment, not for this second. It *hurts*, clenching somewhere deep within him, and this is--this can't be happening. "Promise."
"You're--it's okay, Dad…" All lies and he knows it, knows it in the way his dad looks away, or--or doesn't, doesn't look anymore, and fading. Here. The hand goes limp in his grasp, and God, his dad's body weighs so much, too much even for him, and he holds on tighter.
The step on the grass beside him is prosaic and quiet, and he follows the line of dark trousers, the pale hand clutched around the hilt of a smooth black gun that hadn't fired fast enough, because Lex had hesitated with the time it took to say seven words, and Clark can taste gunpowder thick and dry on his tongue.
He wants to say something, wants to pull away, but his dad's body holds him in place, and something hot and wet slicks his face. Lex crouches beside him, and Clark can't look to see the expression on his face.
"Clark." Low voice, but there's something in it that demands obedience, and Clark looks up. Clear, bright blue, full of all the life that should have been in his father's.
Three times you've hesitated, Lex, he wants to shout, but the words don't come--nothing comes, not even grief. This must be what shock feels like.
"So how about two, Clark?"
Clark hits the floor of the loft with a start, elbows jarred through the threadbare rug, eyes burning, and when he rolls over, he realizes he must have fallen asleep on the couch.