The Yard by jenn
It was the third of the month, which didn't really mean anything except that it was billing time, and Clark was trapped in the house on a Saturday afternoon, watching his mother write out the bills.
Lots and lots and *lots* of bills.
For some reason that Clark had never completely understood, the computer was used for anything and everything *but* this--every bill was carefully handwritten, amounts figured on Dad's old calculator and checked against the spreadsheet, before being entered. One for every sale--single customer, business, or other. It was a weekend long job, culminating in Clark hand delivering each as he picked up payments on the seventh of every month, come hell, high water, mutant-angst, or Sunday afternoons.
And that, too, took *hours*.
Tapping his fingers into the worn kitchen table, owned by three generation of Kentish men, built by one of the grandfathers involved in the Creation of the Kent Family Traditions (damn him), Clark watched his mother going through the print outs of the month's deliveries, one for every day of the week. Yes, Dad liked the entire old-fashioned, my-daddy-did-it-so-I-will-too, and Clark has a sneaking suspicion his mother gets a kick out of it as well. It's more personal, she'd told him, the first year after they'd gotten the computer and he'd found her at the table, surrounded by printouts, but with her good pen and a stack of customized billing statements beside it. We're a farming family, she'd explained as she carefully signed each bill. Sit down and help me finish this, she'd added, grinning up at him with blue eyes half-hidden beneath a strand of bright-red hair.
He'd had fun, he'll admit that much.
But. Ten to seventeen, different ages and different times, and right, it'd been fun then, but now? Not so much. It was Saturday and it was spring and there was no homework. Outside was one of the those perfect spring days, bright and clear with a blue sky, and Pete's dirtbikes were waiting for him to show up and exercise his right to be a teenager and completely irresponsible.
Not mentally checking his mother's and the computer's math for hours while the day aged depressingly around him.
Mom made a sound like a snicker. "Not until this is done."
Was she *psychic*? Drumming his fingers on the table, Clark caught himself before he could leave dents in the carefully polished wood, clenching hands into fists as his mother continued to murmur numbers beneath her breath.
Hell could be the monotonous sound of a calculator's clicking for hours straight. Maybe the Smallville water-torture, a take on the Chinese version but without the water or the Chinese.
"All right, that's A-F," Mom said, lifting her head and stretching her neck. "Get me some tea from the refrigerator, honey?" Rattling her glass, she neatly stacked the finished bills in the box, pulling over the next stack of print-outs. "G-K."
Oh damn. Picking up the glass, Clark clumped across the floor--immature, oh God yes, but he felt the need to exercise his immaturity, opening the refrigerator door and finding the pitcher of ice tea. "How does Dad get out of this anyway?" Clark asked, putting the pitcher on the counter and pouring the melting ice from the bottom of the glass into the sink. The freezer was stuffed with ice trays; Mom was a good organizer.
"You know he had some things to pick up in town, Clark," Mom said, so deadpan that Clark knew she was laughing at him. Right, of course Dad had some things to pick up in town. In another *state*, if the fact that he and the truck had disappeared well before seven and hadn't been seen since was any indication. And Mom *knew*. And she let him do it anyway.
Dad was going to pay for this one this year. Filling the glass rebelliously, Clark put the tray back in the freezer after filling it, pouring his mom's glass and carrying the pitcher to the table to fill his own.
It was going to be a *very* long afternoon. Clark spared a wistful look out the window. The good weather mocked him.
And he was definitely sulking.
Mom picked up her glass, taking a drink as she scanned the print outs, her other hand reaching blindly for the stack of receipts by Clark's elbow. He pushed them over, staring resentfully over the rim of his glass at the computer that would do all of this in, like, an *hour*, and that would have meant a full day of dirtbike and driving goodness, not being stuck inside and God darnit....
"Am I interrupting?"
Clark's head turned too fast, and catching startled blue eyes made Clark wonder if Lex was flashbacking to the Exorcist as he gingerly pushed the screen door open. Mom waved a hand, inviting him in while her lips chanted out the price of spring vegetables.
"Nope. Sit down. Want some tea?" Maybe the overeager puppy thing was overdone, but it got him a brief smirk before Lex gingerly took a chair, glancing at the piles of papers and Mom with an amused look.
"I'd love some tea. Bill day again?"
Clark saw Mom's head nod briefly before the clicking of the calculator stopped and she straightened. "As usual. How've you been, Lex?"
"As usual." Long fingers slicked the table briefly, like Lex was reading Braille.
"How's Helen?" There was real worry in Mom's voice, enough to bring Clark's head sharply upward, and more than enough to miss his aim and spill tea over the counter. Hissing, he grabbed for a rag, trying to keep half an eye on the table, plenty to see Lex's expression shut down like lights going off. No one named Lex Luthor here to show any kind of emotional reaction, please try the next house, please. Clark's been seeing a lot of that from Lex lately.
"Better." And if that wasn't an invitation to close the subject, Clark didn't know what was. A few images rippled across the surface of Clark's mind--that guy and Lex's face, the rage that was somehow more terrifying for the fact it was so rare and never before controlled. Lex acted out when he hit that level, but this time he hadn't, and that told Clark a few things that he wasn't entirely comfortable with, none of them to do with Helen.
Lex was emotion, for all the cool reason he played with at his leisure, like some insanely complex game of chess. Like feelings were something he pushed around on the board and used to his advantage, and he was good at it, but Clark trusted the stripped down Lex more. The one who simply acted without thinking how each move would go. The one that could be counted on to, right, screw up, but at least screw up honestly.
The one who could channel it back and think it through had pulled back, but Clark wondered a little if that one would also have shot the gun anyway if he'd had enough time to think.
The glass got placed in front of Lex with a little too much force, and Lex looked up in surprise as cold tea dripped onto his hand. "Sorry."
"No problem." Blue eyes glinted as Lex picked up the glass. "What are you up to this afternoon?"
That sounded disturbingly mischievous, like perhaps Lex had something specific in mind. Maybe even fun. And fate was a bitch, because Lex hadn't had any time at all between work and Helen and whatever the hell he did with his remaining free time--Clark had no illusions that Lex didn't have hobbies. Just ones that didn't include Clark, and that was another bit to chalk up to the Life is Fucking Unfair Board he kept in his head, and right now, unfair was winning by a big margin.
"Bills," Clark answered shortly when the silence stretched too long. "For, like, ever."
Lex didn't snicker, but it was a very close thing. "Special screening of Matrix Reloaded coming up soon. Got tickets. Want to go?"
What, Helen wasn't interested in superhuman virtual reality? Probably too busy pouring over a microscope with Clark's blood on it. "Absolutely. When?"
"Next weekend." Another grin, and Lex reached for an apple. "If your parents agree."
"What time?" Mom asked, and wow, she was listening. Damn.
"Midnight. We'll leave at seven and be back in time for Clark to do his morning chores."
Mom's pen stilled briefly, head lifting, and Clark caught a flash of something close to worry, then the clear eyes smiled at him and Lex. Maybe she'd noticed the distance, too. "Take a nap in the afternoon and do all your work before you leave, then yes. Speaking of work, you need some air, honey?"
He couldn't be that lucky. Almost bouncing, Clark turned toward his mother, elbow hitting his full glass of tea, and only a little-too-much speed caught it. Oh. Well. That was stupid. "Yes." And just maybe Lex didn't see that. Because right, Lex never saw anything.
A single glance made his stomach drop for all the wrong reasons, because Lex was smiling down at his glass, eyes completely turned inward. He hadn't noticed a thing.
"Run over and see if Mr. Granger's got a copy of this week's order. Your father couldn't find it."
"He didn't order anything. I saw all the orders." And a mental flip through the freakishness of his memory--thank you for that term, Chloe--pretty much confirmed. "Must have forgotten."
"That's odd." Picking through the receipts, Mom lighted on one, looking down at it for a minute before entering it into the calculator and comparing to the spreadsheet. "Check and make sure? I don't want to lose an order. He's been a faithful customer since before your father and I got married." She made it sound like dinosaurs had wandered the earth back then. Clark glanced at Lex, but that inner look was still there. Like Lex wasn't here at all.
"All right." Sighing, he stands up, reaching for the order form Mom handed him, barely breaking her concentration on the numbers.
"Need a ride?"
Clark almost froze--almost, but not quite. From the corner of his eye, Clark saw his mother look up, pulled from the mental zone of advanced accounting, but Lex just looked like Lex, except distracted.
"I noticed the truck wasn't here."
Right. And how else would Clark get from point Kent to point Granger unless he took Mom's car, which she never, ever let him drive anymore, what with the little barn door issue he'd perpetrated last year with it.
"Sure. You mind, Mom?"
Looking at him, Mom shook her head slowly. "Go ahead. Just be back in time to help with dinner." A little smile, strained and distracted, and that was getting old. Everyone seemed distracted these days. "Have fun."
With Mr. Granger? Sure thing. Clark watched Lex get up, keys in hand, and followed him to the door, vaguely aware that his mother was already back in number land, but that he, at least, would be tasting fresh air. The day was going pretty damn well, come to think.
Maybe great, even.
A few weeks before, Clark had helped Mr. Granger in his garden. To be generous, Smallville called it a garden, though it only vaguely resembled even the loosest definition, a limping clump of greenery broken by rusting metal cars and farm equipment probably built during the Civil War, and that would make sense, seeing that Mr. Granger was pushing three hundred or so.
Okay, maybe only seventy, but still.
Helping had consisted of listening as Mr. Granger griped about fertilizer and allergies, and Clark had just bit his lip on asking if just maybe, the fact that the garden was *full* of weeds might have something to do with it and moving bits of broken machinery in completely random directions. He'd almost have thought the man was looking for an excuse to have some company except Mr. Granger didn't like anyone but his cat and the kid that delivered his newspaper, and Clark still hasn't figured out exactly what that kid has that he doesn't, other than a really great bicycle.
"It's a big yard," Mr. Granger had said as Clark pretended to struggle with what could have been abstract art or a very, very desiccated bumper. From the porch, the high weeds, trees, and grass kept Clark from getting a good view of what was kept back there, but on ground level? You got the whole picture. Motors like the corpses of better days sprinkled around like Leggos, several Ford bodies built in the forties with no remaining paint, and God knew why any sane person would collect *buckets*, but they were everywhere. A high chain-length fence ran around the entire yard, a demarcation of the property line that separated the Granger holdings from the Abbots, who had all moved to New York years ago but apparently never got the itch to sell their property, though they hadn't visited since before Clark had arrived. Clark was still fuzzy on the reasoning for the fence, though Mr. Granger cited confusing stories involving domesticated pigs making for his porch and his valiant battle to save his skin from their rapacious teeth with a broom, and Clark might have believed him if he'd ever seen *any* wild pigs out here in his life.
Kansas was a lot of things--home to mutants, aliens, and billionaires, but not gone-wild domesticated pigs, unless you counted the three five miles over that belonged to little Tiffani Summers and had been raised for 4-H shows before Tiffani lost the nerve to have them butchered. And well, they weren't exactly active pigs. More like still-breathing sausage in large pens.
And this, Clark thought a little wildly in the passenger seat of Lex's Aston, was the kind of thing his brain came up with to talk about in lieu of intelligent conversation.
"Pigs, hmm?" Lex's voice was so close to neutral that Clark honestly didn't want to know what was going on in his head.
There'd been an uncomfortable cloud in the car since the door had shut, and Clark regretted his need for fresh air. Give him a cramped kitchen and endless columns of numbers like runes until his eyes crossed and he lost the will to live. Lex was the kind of thoughtful that came right before some kind of necessary conversation, and they'd had enough of those for Clark to mark every warning sign one by one.
Thoughtful, distracted, still interested but distant. And that entire calm was covering something completely different, something that was making Lex smile for no good reason whatsoever that Clark could figure out, and every road led right back to Helen these days.
Helen this, Helen that, baby this, baby that, oh, and right, his parents weren't much better, with his mother's secret smiles at his father that seemed to shut him out. Adopted kids felt this way when their parents had biological kids, he'd read all about it in the book that had mysteriously appeared on his desk a few months back. Normal, even. Mom, thy name has never really been synonymous with subtle.
He wasn't feeling left out so much as--bored. Okay, and left out. Crap.
More bizarre Mr. Granger stories jumped to the tip of his tongue, but Clark bit them back, aware that at this point, delaying the inevitable would be stupid. And obvious. He was willing to go with stupid when necessary, but the obvious thing he really had to work on.
Lex shifted on the seat, almost uncomfortable, and Clark noted that he wasn't wearing his driving gloves. Meaningless, but the dark red shirt and the way his mouth quirked in a secret smile wasn't helping the entire 'this is so me overreacting to nothing at all' mentality he was trying to build up. Stupidity was art, and Clark was good at art. At this point, he might as well make it his profession.
"I asked Helen to marry me."
It wasn't shock, even as Clark kept his gaze on the worn county road, watching how Lex cleverly swerved around one pothole to hit a bigger one, cut off curses under his breath as he downshifted again. It wasn't a shock because Clark had seen this coming forever and he was okay with that.
Forever being, since the train, when he did some basic math and figured that Helen moving in had been a prelude to this.
Just not so soon.
Lex must have been paying attention better than Clark had thought, though, because the expectant silence was broken too quickly.
"I like to move fast when I find something I want," Lex said, and was he a *mindreader* now? No, Clark had said that out loud. Great. Just great. He didn't slump in the seat because it was physically impossible to do so more than he already had.
"Like the other time?" The glance from the corner of Lex's eyes was almost angry, and Clark bit his lip. "Sorry. I mean, I'm happy for you."
"Helen's nothing like her."
Except for the entire living together and getting married, height and eye color, and that unfortunate taste in shoes? But besides that, nothing at all.
"No, she's not. I like her." Clark did. He liked her a lot, best at a comfortable distance, especially with a few walls between them. And it wasn't just Dad's horses are already out of the barn paranoia thing, but Mom was looking vaguely odd when her name came up these days. "I'm--if you're sure, then yeah, it's great. Really." His mouth stretched like warm plastic, and it was a four on the Clark Smile Scale, but Lex wasn't noticing him these days. So he probably wouldn't notice now.
Which of course, he didn't, and Clark wondered if a three would have been a better choice.
"I wanted to ask you something."
Clark's desperate eye saw a light at the end of the wedding. "There."
Full attention. Wide blue eyes fix on Clark. "What?"
Desperately, Clark pointed at the coming turn. "Right there, the Granger place."
Lex downshifted for the turn, just grazing a pothole the size of a small dictatorship, before sliding into the long gravel driveway that led to the house. Lots of wincing and attention paid to the fact that the paint job would never be the same, and maybe Clark could live without any Lex attention for a bit while he absorbed the fact that Lex was getting married. Again.
And this time? Clark couldn't think of a single disturbing thing, except that Helen knew about his blood and Lex knew about other things, and neither of them, as far as Clark could tell, were the kind to be stupid and not eventually share.
Clark got his seatbelt off, pushing the door open before the car even came to a full stop. Mr. Granger was gripey, but Lex was apparently feeling sincere and announcing his engagement. And Clark had some preferences on what he had to listen to, and Mr. Granger was beating out Lex with a seriously big stick.
The front yard was the ultimate desert zone of dust and sad, scraggly brown grass struggling to survive, a raw shape in dark dirt cut in a rough half-circle where the truck usually drove on its way to the small open-air garage. Obviously, Mr. Granger didn't pay a lot of attention to the front. Taking a step, Clark watched dust puff up around his shoes, giving the garage a quick glance to confirm the presence of the truck.
That would be Lex, getting out of the car for no good reason. Why?
"I'll only be a second, Lex," Clark threw over his shoulder, trying to sound as casual yet determined as possible. Do stay where you are, Lex, while I find the crazy guy who called me Reggie sometimes for no reason. Really. Right there.
But Lex didn't respond to telepathic aliens, or at least, not to Clark, which could actually be the result of Clark not actually *being* a telepathic alien, but he decided to blame it on the fact Lex was *still* distracted. In love, Clark's mind offered helpfully. See, he has a future wife and a brother *and* other, important, close things to worry about. You, my friend, no longer make the priority list.
Clark told his brain to shut up and concentrated on walking to the porch.
The house itself would have been good in some kind of movie involving insane cannibals in out of the way places. Big, wrap around porch built in another era, but not nearly enough maintenance, the old wood looking almost fragile. A decided sag in the left side of the stairs--settling, maybe, sinking into the ground, not enough foundation to keep it up. The porch itself was at a definite, though more subtle, angle that Clark could feel on the first step, right along with the sharp squeak of boards and the low groan of old wood that had no interest in holding his weight.
It would totally top off this day if he fell through the boards and became trapped, forced to listen to Lex talk about Helen and weddings while waiting for rescue.
He knocked more sharply than he meant to, knuckles sinking a little into the wood the second time, and Clark jerked back, blinking at the imprints of his bones in wood. Kind of creepy, that, but then, Mr. Granger was all about the creep factor. Straightening, he blinked into x-ray, peering inside. Nothing.
That meant, backyard. Dammit.
"Is he home?" Lex was still in the dust, looking between Clark and the porch with a dubious expression. Smart. He knew structural destruction when Clark was daring it personally. Coming back down, Clark glanced around.
"Probably in the yard out back." It really wasn't that pretty a day, Clark thought as he went to the gate, staring into the overgrowth with an absolute determination not to look at Lex again until he had to. It was hot. Sticky. Sweat was popping up all over his skin in a thin, slick film, and his shirt was clinging to his back. And the dust wasn't helping, clinging to him like another skin, but that seemed kind of okay, now that he thought about it, because Lex was getting married, ignoring Clark, *and* would get a very, very dusty car from this experience.
Bright side, there it was.
The gate unlocked easily and Clark slid in, hitting thick weeds and this wasn't a jungle, but it could be someone's bad dream of a garden grown amuck.
"You said garden, Clark." Lex sounded as dubious as Clark felt. Sighing, Clark steps inside further, letting Lex in behind him, before pushing the heavy wooden gate closed.
"He's--very weird." That being the understatement of the year. Pushing aside a spindly bush that really needed to be put out of its misery, Clark gave the area another once-over. A lot of the parts here were laced with lead, which made x-ray spotty and strangely surreal--normal spots he could see, then blank areas that almost made his head ache when he looked. "Mr. Granger? You back here?"
Clark paused to listen, hearing Lex come to a stop beside him. Hmm. Slight rustling--could be Mr. Granger or Victor the Dumbest Cat Ever, who had tried to slash Clark with his claws the first time they met and ran whimpering away soon after. No, Victor would never be president of the Cat's Coalition Clark Kent Fan Club, and certainly not MENSA qualified either, since he still tried it *every damn time*.
"You sure he's here?" Lex asked dubiously, and Clark wondered if Lex was noticing the smell of the mulch that those expensive shoes were currently sinking into. He buried an intense desire to laugh.
"He's not exactly Mr. Sociality," Clark answered, and that really did hold true for most of Smallville. Say what you like about small town warmth and friendliness, Clark was beginning to think that the town attracted more in the way of solitary isolationists with psychological issues than anything like wholesome down to earth farmers these days. "And his truck's here."
"Maybe he went for a walk?"
Clark shook his head, pushing by another bush, blinking a little as he met the body of another classic truck that glinted in that charming state of near-perfect rust. "He's really into his garden."
If you were very flexible with the definition of garden, that is.
Ten more feet, and Clark noted that at least in some places, the grass was thickening up--well, the mulch was working, apparently, and Clark stopped to admire a sapling. "You know, he's getting better." Thinking of Lex's garden, Clark glanced back and saw Lex's incredulous expression. "Relatively speaking. Come on. The back yard's only two acres. He's probably at the back fence, making sure no one's encroaching on his land."
"Like wild domesticated pigs?"
Clark snickered. "I see you heard the story."
The soft snort followed, and Lex came up beside him, glancing down at the sapling before looking into the underbrush and half-grown trees, like he had x-ray vision himself. Clark could feel the curious gaze fix on him briefly, weighing, and right, they'd had a conversation going on in the car and maybe Clark should be a little more enthusiastic. "About you and Helen, Lex. It's really great."
It was easier if he didn't have to look at Lex, taking a step by the sapling and avoiding the rusted engine of a tractor on his way. "You seemed a little--ambivalent in the car."
That was a word for it. "Just worried. Like any friend. But I am happy for you, Lex." There might have been desperation in his voice. "Mr. Granger? It's Clark Kent!" Come on, Mr. Granger, save me here. I need help. Sweat dripped down the back of Clark's neck, and it was definitely getting hotter. Well, great. That just made everything better. Wiping the back of his hand along his forehead, Clark narrowed his gaze, but the sporadic clicks of the x-ray and blank spaces of lead gave him a headache every time. "Crap. Where *is* he?"
A line of overgrown bushes hid the remains of another vehicle--behind him, Clark heard Lex stumble and half turned, catching the blue gaze staring down at the car with something like surprise as he pushed himself away from the bumper. "What?"
"That used to be a very nice car," Lex answered, wiping a hand along his knees, rust clinging to the tan of his pants. "What does he do, collect from the junkyard?"
Clark shrugged. "Never asked. I think it's kind of his equivalent of statues in a garden, though." There were more, though, and Clark stopped to check out a vaguely identifiable bumper, growing over with weeds. "I think he likes cars."
"I like cars, but I don't make large scale cemeteries for them, either." Clark almost mentioned the Porsche in the garage, then thought better of it. He hadn't even checked recently to see if it was there Wiping his palms over his thighs, Clark flicked casually at his shirt, trying to get some air movement. Where was the wind today, anyway? "Is it just me or is it really hot?"
"I--" The words trickled off, and Clark dropped the edges of his shirt, glancing back to see Lex staring at something with a look of utter absorption. A slow turn, and he followed the fixed gaze to what appeared to be yet another burned-out car body, seated neatly in a clearing of brush, surrounded by scraggly grass. "Now that is interesting."
A rusty car? Clark frowned, not moving as Lex pushed by him with a beautiful lack of concern, nearly jogging to the desiccated body to run appreciative eyes over it's surface. "Um, Lex? What is that?"
"Lamborghini. I'd recognize it anywhere. And not too outdated if the body shape is any indication." Even from here, Clark could see Lex's fingers twitch acquisitively as he studied the car. "I thought I was familiar with all the models, but this one--" And Lex was gone in car-appreciation, like Pete got about motorcycles and Dad about beer. The world might stop revolving, the sun go down, and the apocalypse begin, but all of it was secondary to that moment of pure connection, of finding the non-sentient soul mate, and Clark almost sighed but didn't. Mostly because it'd be wasted--Lex wouldn't even hear him. "I wonder--"
Clark was moving instantly. The note in Lex's voice was completely new and completely familiar at the same time. A hand touched Lex's shoulder just as he stumbled back, eyes wide, and Clark followed the shocked eyes to a young man standing on the other side of the car, staring at them in shock.
A brief impression of wide, dark eyes and wide open mouth before a flash of pure pain rippled through Clark's skin, and Clark grabbed for his stomach at the unmistakable signs of meteorite. There wasn't any here--there *couldn't* be, he'd been in and out of Mr. Granger's garden since he was a kid--but logic wasn't being helpful.
Logic, in fact, had taken a long walk, because the boy wasn't alone. Like the ghosts of embittered car owners guarding their precious relicts, figures emerged almost silently from the wood and brush, sometimes seeming to materialize from thin air. With every body came another flash of pain, intensifying slowly and steadily, and Clark felt the first stretch of his skin, like something was trying to crawl out from beneath.
"He's one," someone whispers, and the high, pulsing fear in his voice was almost as intense as the pain. Clark found himself taking a step back, trying to catch his breath from where it had caught in his throat. Flashes of green seemed to be everywhere--like these people were using it as jewelry. "Jesus. That's--that's--"
They flowed like water around the car--Clark hit the ground, unable to even breathe, hearing Lex saying something to him, but sounds were melding into a white-hot agony, every power he had turned inward like it was trying to rip out of him by sheer force. As if from far away, Clark heard Lex talking, then hands supporting him, but clarity was dead and he felt himself curling up with the ripple of another cramp.
"He's not one. I don't--"
"There's more if there's one--"
"Don't you know who the fuck that *is*?"
The last voice cut even through the pain, and Clark opened his eyes, trying to orient himself, vaguely aware of his cheek pressed to soft cotton and Lex's hands on him, protective and afraid at once.
"Kal," someone breathed, like invoking a curse, and Clark watched blearily as the circle take a *huge* step back.
Oh fucking *hell*.
"I'm Lex Luthor," Lex said from somewhere above him--the soothing hands were somehow cool, a relief like ice on a warm day, and Clark couldn't help leaning into it. "This is Clark Kent, and who the fuck are you?"
Clark narrowed his gaze, trying to concentrate. Meteor rocks--small, definitely, but everyone was wearing them, and okay, why? Clark's head refused to clear enough to process, but Lex seemed to be doing all the processing for both of them, trying to pull Clark to his feet and managing by force of will alone to get Clark a few desperately needed feet away. Still too close, but at least he could breathe again.
"Lex," someone murmured, and Clark tried to identify the strange edge to their voice, but nothing was registering.
"Lex--" His voice was a horrifying scratch in the back of his throat, and if sound could bleed, they'd be soaked in seconds. Have to get out of here. Preferably fast. How Lex was holding him up was anyone's guess, but Clark was thinking pure Lexian will was doing most of the work for him. Another dragging step back, and Clark pushed his feet down to help, trying to find some kind of balance, but his body still wasn't responding, and that thing he said about weird people being nonsocial in Smallville? That was way too damn prophetic.
Apparently, however, while they might not socialize with the other residents? The weird people *did* associate with each other, and he groaned even as the stupid laugh slipped from between his lips. Lex's hands tightened briefly, and Clark wondered if Lex thought he was losing it.
Of course, at this point, Lex could be thinking a lot of things, and Clark wondered how he'd explain this one to him.
"You okay?" Lex asked hoarsely, but Clark could hear the hysterical laughter underneath. Yes, a stupid question. No, he wasn't okay, which was why Lex was practically dragging him painful inch by painful inch over bare dusty ground. But it had to be asked and had to be answered.
"Great," he whispered back. Crap. *Crap*. What was going on and why and all of those questions? Totally irrelevant to *getting the hell out of here* before something--
The sudden flare of green on someone's throat killed rational thought dead, and Clark collapsed, bringing Lex down with him, and Lex might forgive a lot of things, but being rolled around in mulched dust? Probably not on the list. Curling onto his side, he could just hear hysterical screaming, feet pounding into the earth, and a sudden sense of clarity pushed his head up, or maybe it was the fact that they were sitting in a shadowed spot where there had been only sunlight before.
Rolling on his back, Clark gazed up into gunmetal grey solidity hovering a hundred feet above him, eyes fixing instinctively on the insignia beneath. A thrumming beneath his skin that was nothing like meteor rock, and--
--like that moment on the bridge, like his first glimpse of Kryptonian symbols, instant recognition, his augmented memory kicking up like electricity, zeroing in and out. He had never seen it before, had known it all his life.
That was the insignia of his house.