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Many thanks to elynross, Killa, and Merry for beta duty! Comments and critique very much appreciated.
Waiting for Yes
Nell touched his arm once as she walked away. No one else spoke to him, or if they did, he didn't notice, too busy listening for something he'd never hear again. He didn't really know anyone here anymore, not well.
At least, none of the people above the ground.
He took a few steps past the freshly turned earth and knelt by the older tombstones, lay down the stiff, ugly bouquet he didn't quite remember buying. He didn't want to see the white flowers and ribbons stark against the black dirt. Lana's parents needed them more now than she did, anyway. There wasn't anyone left to leave them flowers.
Everyone else had left, mostly. A few cars still clustered outside the gate, pickup trucks and SUVs and the one solitary limousine Nell had hired. Clark turned back into the cemetery and went deeper in, until he couldn't see them anymore. The wind was picking up a little, swirling dry leaves across the overgrown paths, and he stepped on them deliberately for the crackle that drowned out the voices and engines still going in the distance, until the last faded into silence.
Ma and Pa weren't much further away, but he stopped and sat down on a bench anyway. No need to rush; he had nowhere to be. He felt strange, emptied out.
It had taken him so long to realize what was happening – Pa and the truck, the mistake with Ma's medication, Pete's mom calling him with tears in her voice to tell him about the accident, Chloe trapped in that gang shootout – he'd spent so much time blaming himself for not being there, he hadn't figured out that the real reason was he'd ever been there at all. It had taken Chloe to see it, gasping it all out to him with her blood slick under his fingers while he flew as fast as he dared, and not nearly fast enough.
He'd slept maybe an hour a day in the months since then, every minute consumed with watching, watching all of them—Lois, Perry, Jimmy... Lana. Especially Lana. He'd been so sure she'd be next—and he'd been right, that was the hell of it, he'd been right
and he'd still been nothing but useless and stupid, spending twenty-four hours a day watching out for mysterious strangers with guns, and freak car accidents, and all the time the cancer had been quietly eating her away from inside.
There was nothing left to do. He'd done everything in his power, everything—and Lana was still in a box in the ground, and nothing he'd done had made the slightest difference. He looked down at his hands, broad and smooth and helpless. What were they going to say? He'd have to tell them—Lois, all his close friends. They had a right to know why they were going to die. They had a right to hate him, to turn from him. It might still save their lives. He'd proven pretty thoroughly that he wasn't going to be able to do it.
And then Lex was there, sitting down next to him, as abruptly as if he'd been invisible. Clark just barely managed not to flinch back. He wasn't used to people sneaking up on him.
"Sorry," Lex said, clearly anything but. "New toy—personal stealth technology. How have you been?"
Clark didn't look at him. Looked back down at his hands instead, thought about how it would feel to put them around Lex's throat and squeeze, just for a second. Treason and murder in the first degree all wrapped up into one, cold as the dirt they'd put Lana into, and it would be over so, so quick. He hadn't done it for Lana. He wasn't sure if he could do it for Lois, for Jimmy, but he could try.
Lex laughed softly. "Do you really think I'd get this close without taking precautions?"
No. Of course he wouldn't. Clark turned his hands over, put them on his knees.
"I just thought you might feel like talking now," Lex added, and Clark felt his smile more than saw it, that little tilt of the corner of his mouth, his head leaning forward just a little bit, and wondered how it was that he could sit here, knowing everything Lex was, everything he'd done, and still feel the pull of it.
"I won't work for you," he said quietly, though it took an effort. Lois... "Not if you kill the whole world."
"Nah, it'd be too boring to live in, then," Lex said. He was lighting up a cigar as he spoke, cupping the end in his long almost-delicate hands, flicking the lighter closed with a practiced flip of the wrist. "Don't worry, Clark. That's not what I'm after. I got the picture back when you first came to Metropolis." He blew smoke and looked at Clark, still smiling. "You remember that? Your first night, I set up a big debut for you, and at the end of it you hauled my ass to a jail cell."
"I remember you nearly got three dozen people killed."
Lex waved a dismissive hand. "They weren't in all that much danger, and they weren't particularly interesting people anyway. The thing that killed me, though—" He leaned forward. "You really thought I didn't recognize you."
Yes, Lex. Thanks for rubbing that particular piece of idiocy in. Clark looked away, his jaw tightening so hard he thought he might crack something. "What do you want, then?"
"Not much, really." Lex shrugged. "Did the money thing. Did the power thing. My second term's over in a couple of months." He paused. "They're ranking me up there with FDR and Lincoln in the surveys, you hear that? I think I'm beating out George Washington."
"They just don't know you like I do," Clark said.
"Yeah, well, who's to say they knew Lincoln, either? Don't let it get to you, Clark. I'm sure twenty years after I'm dead someone will publish some tell-all expose. Of course, at that point I won't care, and most people won't believe it, but hey, maybe you'll still be around to see it."
Clark tried and failed to keep his shoulders from hunching. Lex had always been able to do that—slide right past his defenses and jab him in a weak spot. He didn't want to live forever. He'd already lost too much. In another fifty years, would there be anyone left for him to care about? Even if Lex didn't kill them all first. "Why don't you just cut to the chase, Lex. I've got better things to do than sit around and listen to you gloat."
"Which is why you're hanging out in a graveyard in Smallville," Lex said dryly. "Not that I mind skipping the pleasantries, but it cuts both ways." He reached out a finger and lightly touched Clark's temple, trailed it down along his jawline. "You already know what I want, Clark," he said softly. "So if you don't want to chat, quit shoving your head in the sand and we can get this show on the road."
Clark jerked away and stood up. "You're out of your mind. You can't seriously think I'd—after what you did—" Clark stopped, choking, and tried to haul himself together. "Forget how I feel about it—you
hate me. You hate me more than anyone else in the world, and you want to—to—"
"What makes you think I hate you?" Lex said, leaning back and stretching an arm out along the top of the bench. "You take things too personally, Clark."
Clark stared at him. "You killed my parents, Pete, Chloe—now Lana. You're going after my friends one by one, and I'm taking things too personally?"
"Think about it, Clark," Lex said patiently. "I can't do anything to you directly but kill you. You've made it pretty damn clear you don't want anything I can give you. So I can't threaten you straight-on, and I can't bribe you. Believe me, I wouldn't bring other people into it like this if I had other options. It's just messy."
"You could try taking no for an answer," Clark said.
"I've been trying that for years." Lex stood up, brushed his pants straight. He slid his hands into his pockets and came closer, that same loose-hipped saunter that said the whole world was there for him to walk on. "I guess I'm just getting tired waiting for you to change it back to yes."
Clark almost took a step back, his skin prickling. No one but Lex ever came at him like this, walked right past arm's-length and set up camp inches away from his chest. He tried to look down at Lex, and Lex just leaned his head over to one side a little and looked up at him, and he felt like a piece of property being admired instead of the guy with a half-foot advantage in height.
"It's not going to happen, Lex," he said, and it wasn't, even if Lex was standing there smiling the way he always did when he was about to close a deal, when the guys on the other side were about to find out their four-of-a-kind wasn't worth a bean because he was playing with a royal flush.
Lex studied him a moment without saying anything, then reached down to take Clark's wrist, gently, gently, asking rather than forcing. Wary, Clark let him, watched him raise it to his own throat, tension knotting his arms as Lex settled his fingers carefully. Clark could feel the fragile column of his trachea, the steady pulse along the jugular.
"I thought you took precautions," Clark said, whispered really, feeling as though the hand was around his own throat.
"I lied," Lex said. "You want me dead, all you have to do is squeeze."
"You deserve to die," Clark said. "You deserve to." He flexed his fingers slightly, pressing them into the smooth, hairless skin.
Lex swallowed hard, but he never looked away, never flinched. "It's up to you," he said, sounding breathless. "But don't kid yourself that I'll back off. I won't, Clark. I won't. You walk away and leave me standing, and you'd better be ready to go to some more funerals."
Clark's hand tightened. "My God, do you want
me to kill you?"
"I'm not fucking around here, Clark," Lex said, and unbelievably, he
sounded angry. "You think this is some kind of game I'm playing because I got bored running the free world?" He grabbed Clark's wrist, held it in place, pressed harder into the grip. "You want me dead? Come on, let's do it."
Clark hauled him closer, lifted until Lex was straining to keep his feet on the ground. "This what you're looking for?"
Lex struggled for breath, gasped hard, and said clearly, "Beats most of the alternatives."
Numbly, Clark stood still and watched Lex work for air under his hand, eyes half-closed, mouth open, chest rising and falling at a hectic rate. Lana had breathed like that, at the end, when they'd turned off the respirator. She could have asked him for anything and he'd have done it. Anything.
Lex staggered back when Clark let go, nearly fell. There were red marks on his throat, bruises for tomorrow, and he was breathing like a racehorse, his head bowed deeply. Slowly he caught his breath, straightened, brought his head back up.
Clark looked away, remembering Lana in her hospital bed, shivering and nauseous by turns and sometimes together, getting paler and thinner every day. He could imagine Lois that way all too easily, one dark-haired woman with brilliant eyes in place of another, could almost feel the sour vomit and antiseptic crowding his nostrils.
Then Lex's hand was warm on his face, thumb stroking over his cheekbone, mouth warm with brandy and rich sweet smoke, stronger than the remembered taste of death in Clark's mouth, and he never wanted to have to walk into a hospital again.
It was a small price to pay, after all, so he just closed his eyes and stood still when Lex put the other hand between his legs. Smooth black leather sliding over the wool of his best suit, the inhumanly strong prosthetic fingers cupping him, and it hurt how quickly it stopped being any price at all, because he should have been stronger, and maybe if he had been, Lana would still be alive.
"Lex," he said miserably, touched Lex's face with just the tips of his fingers, the long curve of the bare skull smooth and painfully familiar.
"Clark," Lex answered, and licked the corner of Clark's mouth, fingers still rubbing back and forth, slow and insistent, until Clark couldn't help a little sharp gasp, and then Lex was pushing him down urgently, and Clark's pants got opened and his legs got spread and he lay back and breathed deep so Lex could get into him. It seemed completely appropriate that Lex was fucking him here in the graveyard, in the soft wet dirt. He thought maybe he should just stay here, let Lex drive him deep into the ground and pull it down over them both.
And when Lex slid home in him and pressed his thumbs hard into the hollows of Clark's hips, it was as perfect as if he'd never walked away in the first place, as if Lex had spent the last ten years mapping out his body every night. He'd never wanted anyone else like this, not even close, but he'd tried, he'd done the right thing, he had
walked away. No one could blame him now, no one could blame him for moving, for pushing up to meet every thrust, for sobbing and twisting and jacking himself hard and fast, the way Lex had always loved to watch him do it, the way he hadn't done it in years because it made him remember too much.
After, Clark tipped his head back against the ground, all the strength gone out of him, and looked straight up through the sky at the constellations no one else would see until dark. Lex sprawled over his chest, petting him occasionally, sleepily. Clark let himself put his arms around Lex, stroke his smooth, cool skin, and silently make the promises that Lex would never make—because Lex might lie for a lot of reasons, but comforting him wasn't one of them.
"Clark," Lex said, eventually. "I do actually love you, you know."
"Yes," Clark said, dry-eyed. "I know."
The End #