Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: CLex (Clark/Lex), Krypto
Challenge/Prompt: puzzleprompts: October Challenge: ALL
Warning(s): Character Deaths, Future Fic
Word Count: 3,172
Date Written: 25 October 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to DC Comics, not the author, and are used without permission.
His steps are shaky as he sets down on the ground after what would have been a long flight had he taken any other means to get here, but one of the bonuses of having super speed is being able to be anywhere he wants within a matter of a few seconds, or minutes at the longest. His knees almost buckle. His entire body's weak, but the weakness runs further than his trembling muscles.
He runs tired hands over his face, trying hard to clear his mind and focus on the scenery around him. He hasn't had such a close call in a long time. By all accounts, he should be dead. He almost was and would be if another member of the JLA hadn't shown up and removed the kryptonite when they had. He was almost dead. Tears sting Clark's eyes. He almost wishes he was dead.
He peeks through his bloodied fingers at the farm. The house is in ill repair, and the grass needs to be cut. The last time he was here, the minister saw his truck and stopped. The last time he was here was to plan his own mother's funeral. His eyes burn. If he'd died today, maybe he'd be with her again right now. Maybe he'd feel her arms around him, holding him tight, holding him safe and reassured in her love. Maybe his father would look at him and congratulate him on a job well done. Maybe he'd pat his shoulder, call him his son, and tell him he can rest now.
But he can't rest. The world doesn't stop spinning unless he lets it. It seems like an awfully presumptuous idea for one man to think that he keeps the world spinning, but he's saved it so many times now. If he just let one super villain slip by him, maybe it would all be over. Maybe it would all be over, but then what would his parents say?
That, he realizes, is the very reason why when the battle was over, he flew straight here. He wasn't thinking of escaping. There were no villains left to escape, and he could handle the press. He's become an old pro at dealing with those husbands, as his husband calls them, and even has to be one himself on occasion.
His comm buzzes in his ear. The voice of a team mate who he knows, deep down, is also a friend comes across the staticy line. "Superman, are you all right?"
"Superman," he hears another call, a hint of panic in her voice, "are you there?"
He should answer them. He knows he should answer them. He owes them that much at least. They've had his back in many fights, but then he's had theirs too and he knows, just like himself, they're all so very tired of this endless struggle. A tear slips down his face. He yanks the comm out of his ear and crushes it beneath the heel of his boot.
His tear-filled gaze falls upon his mother's favorite rose bush. His breath hitches in surprise. His fingers tremble as he reaches out and touches a bud. He'd figured the plant would be dead by now, but it's not only still alive. It seems to be thriving, its buds soft, full, and fragrant and its leaves a deep, rich green. He bends toward the rose, remembering how the minister found him here. They talked for hours about both of his parents. It was the Preacher who suggested he take a piece of his mother's rose bush back with him to the city, but as Clark had told him then, plants don't live long in the city.
A shiver of dread passes through the hero as he thinks, Nothing lives long in the city, but then the scent of the rose touches his nose and surrounds him. His eyes close, and for a moment, he can almost feel his mother standing there beside him. She always smelled of roses except when she'd been baking and smelled of sugar, flour, and cinnamon. For a moment, Clark can almost feel her gentle hand touching his shoulder. She always used to be able to reassure him. A single glance from her could make the worst days seem not so bad.
Clark yanks his head up, releasing the flower and looks around the farm through his tears. It doesn't make sense. The grass needs to be cut. He sees no other plants living. Yet, this single rose bush thrives. He smiles sadly, his lips trembling as he keeps from sobbing aloud. Some would call it magic. Some would say his mother's touch lingers in these flowers. But he knows better.
He saw her body lowered into the coffin and that wood and concrete box that seemed so small in comparison to the ended life it held lowered into the ground. Clark's hands clench and unclench. He forces himself to turn from the rose bush and walk away.
Why did he come here? he wonders. He knows they're dead. His parents aren't coming back. No amount of magic, prayers, or wishing can bring them back to him. His mother used to saying praying helped everything, but it doesn't help this. It doesn't help the pain to go away, and the pain that riddled his body only a few moments ago is nothing compared to the pain inside of him, the pain that he swallows down and hides every single damn day.
He forces one foot in front of the other as he walks across the farm. Memories flash through his mind, and though he knows the times he spent with his parents were not always happy, those are all that come to him now. He forgets how his father railed against him when he told him he was gay. He forgets how his mother cried when he wasn't looking after he told her he was leaving. He forgets the fights he had with his father over Lex and using his powers, forgets the time Jonathan hit Lex and Lex almost left him as a result, forgets the time Martha walked in between Jonathan's raised hand and Lex who had gazed at the man with such fury that Clark had feared he'd never get him to come back.
But he had come back. He had always come back to Clark, even when they had fought themselves. They argued just two days ago. Now he can't even remember what their squabble, as his mother would have called it, had been about. It doesn't matter. Lex would still come running to him in an instant, Clark knows. Perhaps he should go to him, but he isn't ready to leave here just yet.
He keeps walking, focusing on the physical act of placing one foot in front of the other, and trying to ignore the pull his memories have on his tears. "A man doesn't cry, son," his father had told him once, "unless God gives him such sorrow in his heart that the only thing he can do about it is cry." His mother had told him it was okay to cry and had held him many times while he'd done just that. He'd read somewhere that a man's parents shape who they become. That's certainly true, but he likes to think that he became the man his mother would want him to be far more than the man like his father.
But they would both be proud of what he did today. They would be proud of their son's constant sacrifices to save the world, and although his mother might plead with him to think of himself on occasion, in the end, she'd always want him to do what was right. And being ready to give up as he had been today was not the right thing.
Clark stops walking and simply stands, just looking around him at the one place in all the world that had always had the ability to make him feel so small. It's beginning to seep into him that he's just one out of the billions and billions of people on this planet, but he's one of extraordinarily few souls who keeps sacrificing everything he has for the greater good. Sometimes, like today, he's just so tired of the greater good.
Pain bellows suddenly from his mouth. He whips around and strikes the side of the old tool shed with his heat vision. The wall he strikes explodes, but in the silence that follows and as Clark's eyes return to normal, though still filled with tears, he hears a soft sound. He frowns, recognizing it as a whimper, a plea for help. He turns quickly once more, this time using his X-ray vision to see through the house, the hideaway his father had built to keep them safe should it ever come to that, the tool shed . . . But nothing seems amiss.
Clark shoots up into the air and turns again, slowly traveling every spot within fifty miles with his superb vision. That's when he sees it. Something has downed the trees out in the middle of the woods that separate the Kents' farm from the nearest neighbors on their same side of the road. Something that's left the earth scorched and barren for miles. Something that looks an awful lot like the spaceship his parents found shortly after they first took him into their lives and hearts.
Clark zips to the area. The spaceship is broken. Part of it lays in smokey ruins, but there's enough for him to tell that it does look Kryptonian in design. He scans the area, spots a dog laying underneath a large piece of metal, and runs to him. He throws the metal off of the animal. The dog whimpers again.
Clark runs his hands over the dog's white body. His fur is matted with sweat, but he's not bleeding. He'd been knocked unconscious and trapped underneath the metal. Other than that, he seems to be okay. His tongue flicks out and licks Clark's palm as he continues coming back to alert.
"Where did you come from?" Clark murmurs. To his surprise, the dog not only opens his eyes and meets his gaze but then looks pointedly up. "You came from outer space?" The dog nods, thumps his tail once on the ground, and again licks Clark's palm. He stares at the dog in disbelief, a hundred questions shooting through his mind even faster than he can fly.
But despite being physically okay, Clark can tell, from the way the dog trembles slightly, that he is exhausted. Exhausted, hungry, and thirsty no doubt, he thinks. He very gently lays the dog's head back down. "Stay here," he orders, although there's no need. He'd thought he was okay, but now he realizes that there's no telling how long he's been here.
He zips away and returns a second later with a joint of ham, a bowl, and a jug of water. He gives the dog the ham and is rewarded with the sight of his sharp teeth sinking into the tender meat. He pours the water into the bowl and watches him turn from the meat to lap at the water like he hasn't had any in days. The dog finishes the first bowl in a hurry. Clark pours him another and settles down beside him, watching over him as he eats and drinks.
Soon, he's gnawing on the bone while Clark gently scratches his head. There are still so many questions buzzing in the man's head, but his tears are gone. His attention is almost solely focused on the dog who so clearly needs him, but there's still another issue tugging at the back of his mind.
He gives the dog a little time to rest before gathering him into his arms and standing. "Come. We've got a lot to do." There's always so much to do. It's why he hasn't done what he's about to do more often, although it's not why it's taken him until today to visit the farm. He knew the memories would be almost too much for him, and although his next stop is guaranteed to make him sad again, it's somehow easier visiting his parents there than here.
With the dog in his arms, and the bone secured through his teeth clenching it, Clark makes the short flight over to the cemetery where his parents are buried. The grass has grown around their graves, and a mound of ants have decided to make Jonathan's side their home. Using his heat vision carefully, Clark trims the grass and decimates the ants.
He sits the dog down at the foot of his father's grave and pats his head. "I'll be right back," he vows and, true to his word, is gone and back again within a second. He lays a red rose on his mother's grave, and then, suddenly, his tears begin in earnest.
He forgets he's still wearing Superman's uniform, although there isn't much left of it except for red and blue tatters. He's going to have to retire this costume after today. He forgets somebody else could walk into the cemetery and see him. He even forgets about the dog until he feels him gently licking his fingers.
His hand arches in response, and he gently cups the dog's white muzzle. He looks at him through his tears, then looks back to his parents' grave. "They would have liked you. They were good people."
The two quietly spoken and earnestly felt words spoken behind Clark penetrate into his consciousness and send him whirling around again. "Lex -- " he breathes as more tears fall.
Lex folds Clark into his loving embrace, and although his touch is far different from his mother's, it seems to have the same calming effect. His fingers brush his hair. He presses a chaste kiss to the side of his neck. "They would be so proud of you, Clark," he whispers into his ear.
Clark pulls back, puzzled, and looks into Lex's face. "How did you know -- " he starts to ask.
"They told me so -- "
"No." He shakes his head. "How did you know I would be here?"
Lex smiles, and Clark realizes that unshed tears are also glistening in his beloved husband's blue eyes. "Because I know you, baby," he says simply. He'd tried to pay J'onn for agreeing to give him a lift, but the alien wouldn't have it. He'd gone on and on about how Clark was not only a hero but a friend and it was his privilege to be able to help that friend. Clark might not see it now, but Lex knows his man has landed him some good friends at last, friends who don't judge either of them simply because of what the world thinks.
He holds Clark as he cries and cries and cries, all the pain, anguish, and stress he's been feeling for several months finally leaking out. Lex's solid, reassuring embrace gives him the strength to finally let it all out and reminds him at last of why, even now, he still wants to live. It was more than his body that almost perished today. His very soul had been at stake, but now here, in Lex's loving arms, Clark feels almost as though he's coming back from the dead.
And he wants to live. He wants to live with this man for however many years the Lord will give them. He wants to live with him and love him every moment they have. He won't give up. He won't surrender not because of the world but because of this one person who still loves him and who he also loves far more than he'd ever love life if he didn't have him with whom to share it.
Lex is willing to hold him for however long it takes, be it hours or days, but suddenly, he gasps aloud in surprise.
"What?" Clark demands, stepping from his embrace and following his gaze.
The dog barks as he chases his tail in the air. Clark laughs. Lex beams up at him. "That's certainly something you do not see every day."
Clark nods, thinking that they both see many, many things that normal people do not see on a daily basis or ever, for that matter. He still grieves from the loss of his parents and the friends they've buried, and he always will, but innocents like this bark, grinning dog are the very reasons why he keeps doing what he does every single day, why he keeps giving everything, and why --
Lex's hand slips into Clark's, a perfect match as it's been for as long as they've known each other. "And why your parents not only would be but are so proud of you, Clark."
He glances at him. "Do you really think so?" he asks, but truthfully, he already knows he's right. Whereas Lex never heard a word of love growing up, his parents never stopped telling him and showing him how much they loved him and how very proud they were of him. He hadn't needed to save the world to make them proud, but the correct use of his abilities had always been one of the many things he'd done right and had added to their pride in him.
"I know so," Lex tells him, squeezing his hand. "They both told me, you know, before they passed. Maybe your father didn't say it in so many precise words, but you must realize that that is the reason why he fought against us so hard."
Clark laughs. The dog stops chasing his tail, grins wider, and barks. He zips to him and starts licking his face. Clark's continued laughter spurs Lex's. Laughter echoes through the cemetery like it never has before, drowning out the words the living could not hear even in silence.
"I should have told him. I wish I had known -- "
"You had no way to know."
"I was stubborn. Bull headed."
Martha smiles as she places a hand on top of her husband's. "You always have been, dear; it's one of many traits I love about you."
Jonathan laughs, and the flowers in the graveyard stir though there is no breeze. "How can you love pigheadedness?"
"Simple," she answers, floating before him and into his opening arms. He hugs her as she gazes up at him. "You were always most stubborn when it came to protecting those you love."
"Yes, but I've seen, since my death, that Lex is exactly who our boy needs."
"And he's who he has, just as you are who I need and have. The Lord has a way of blessing us with each other."
They kiss and then watch together as their cherished son zooms toward his home, carrying his husband close to his heart and with their new dog, who's no longer barking simply because his grinning mouth is full of his bone, in tow.