UNDER RUG SWEPT
"And the best and the worst of this is
That neither is most to blame
If you have forgotten my kisses
And I have forgotten your name."
"Kal-El. You know this is madness."
J'onn J'onzz's voice, usually so rational and soothing, grates at me in ways I have no wish to understand. We stand alone on blackened ground as the ashes of billions of Earth's dead wisp up dustily around our feet.
Lex Luthor has destroyed nearly the entire world and he thinks I'm insane?
"Kal-El, did you hear what I said?"
"Don't call me that." I sound petty, but my tone may be enough to silence him.
"Call you what?" He doesn't fall for it. He never does. "Unless I am speaking to someone besides Kal-El of Krypton and don't know it."
"Kal-El died with his parents many lifetimes ago." I stare at the blood-red horizon, still hazy with smoke. "Superman died the day Earth did. There's only one man left."
"Who might that be?"
"Clark Kent," I whisper. "And he has to make this right again."
"That's what I'm afraid you'd say." J'onn shakes his head. "On my home world we had a saying: 'History has its way -- hearts have their own."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
A patient gaze. "It means that history has a way of sticking to its script, no matter how you might try to manipulate it. The hearts of history's creators must be changed, not the circumstances of their lives." He pauses. "Or deaths. Kal-El, if you go back to the past and kill Lex Luthor, there's no guarantee that things will change for the better, or even change at all."
Lex Luthor ... dead. Just the thought is enough to bring a smile to my face. "I'd say there's an excellent chance they will. For the better."
J'onn sighs deeply. He sees the argument is hopeless. "There's no guarantee you'll survive the journey."
"You're reaching now." I search through the pocket of my old-fashioned outfit, the one I picked for this journey and pull out Lex's last invention before he gave up science for genocide.
It's a deceptively tiny contraption that creates a man-sized space of quantum foam -- the molecular entrance to timespace. Lex abandoned it in his lab when he discovered the unstable area could only be entered by someone with faster than light speed and supernatural strength -- a being such as myself.
Just another reason to hate me, I'm sure.
"You don't know when you'll end up," J'onn pleads. "You don't know what part of the continuum you'll enter."
I wave him off with an impatient gesture. "I've done the calculations. I have a pretty good idea." I use my heat vision to warm the device so it can begin the frenzied dance of atoms needed to open the wormhole.
It's now or never. The flames rise, the blue glow expands before our eyes.
"Kal-El! You don't know what you've remembered ... and forgotten!"
"I remember everything, my friend." One last, final, word. "Farewell."
Time and space passes in reverse.
I have no idea how much of the universe speeds past my stretched and aching limbs but I can feel when I reach my destination, hopefully some twenty years in the past.
The scent of fresh earth fills my nostrils first. It's the smell of dark soil, heady and thick. My tongue flicks against my lips, wanting to touch it ... taste it. After what seems like lifetimes of acid smoke and blood-drenched rain this honest smell is more welcome than I could have dreamed.
It takes me a moment to get my bearings and I find myself in the middle of a meadow where everything is intensely, and endlessly, green. Green fields filled with summer corn. Green-painted farmhouses dotting the far landscape -- a green balloon floats on the warm breeze.
It's hard to believe the Earth was ever this green, but it was. Back then. I walk slowly through the fresh grass and carefully look around, not sure if I'm dead or dreaming, not knowing if it matters.
It's then I see her. Behind the booth with the sign that reads: "Kent Farms - Organic Produce." It's the old rickety stall, fairly groaning beneath its burden of apples, strawberries and early summer corn.
Those things are lovely to look at but their natural beauty pales in the glow of the woman who stands over them, tending her wares with utmost care.
It's Mom. My mom. Not Mother, not Martha -- no, this is Mom. Her red hair pinned up neatly, bright blue eyes smiling, and she greets her customers the way she has for years, but I know it won't be for very much longer.
My throat closes and I think I'm suffocating. Mom.
As if in a trance, I walk up to the booth. She looks up and my heart nearly betrays me. Reflected in her eyes, I'm her Clark again. The alien creature who came to Earth and was gathered in her loving arms without question.
How many lifetimes ago was that?
How much horror has passed since then?
"May I help you?" Sweet voice, and why do I have to remember her so well?
Frantically, I shake my head. Words have deserted me. I, the so-called Man of Steel, barely has the strength to stand, let alone speak. The air chokes me and I cough weakly, trying to breathe past my distress.
"Sir? All you all right?" She sounds so concerned.
Mom. No, I'm not all right. I'm not in your arms, holding you tight and never letting go, so how can anything be right?
In my world, my beloved mother is dead and I lay flowers on her grave every Sunday -- flowers from all over the world, replacing them as they fade, which, like happiness, is always far too soon.
Suddenly, my mother recognizes me. I don't know how, but she does and her face changes accordingly. It fills with shock, confusion ... and concern. I'm her son Clark, she knows this, but then, I'm not her son and the paradox buzzes between us.
I stumble back and she leans forward to catch my arm.
"Clark?" she whispers, shocked.
Bewilderment fills her face and I realize where Mom is, Dad can't be far behind. I panic at the thought of him finding me here. Seeing both of them together would undo me utterly and I didn't come back for this.
I didn't come here to get lost in their love ... again.
Temptation, the greatest treason, eats at my soul. I could stay here, tell them my secret and live happily ever after, damning all that came before and what will one day come to pass.
Back on our little farm ... I could do everything for them. Make them rich, make them laugh, and I could forget the anguished screams of the dying.
I could take Mom flying across the sky as I never could figure out how to do when she was alive. Fix Dad's tractor ...
Save him from the accident that took him away from us far too soon.
"I'm sorry, you've made a mistake," I say, pulling away from her touch.
She reaches out to grab me again, but I'm gone. Fled into the corn and straight through the fields which churn up beneath my feet, leaving behind a trail of leaves, earth and bitter dust.
I can't do it. I can't be denied my goal. I can't let myself forget the only reason, the singular reason why I came back to this heavenly -- and forsaken -- place.
To kill Lex Luthor and by doing so, save the world.
Long restless hours pass. Night falls eventually and I remember the odd building that rises relentlessly from the middle of the corn. It's a huge castle and looks so out of place here in the middle of Smallville, surreal and overwhelming.
It's the old Luthor castle and the starlit sight of it tells me I'm forgetting something. Something important -- very important. A niggling memory that eludes me through the passage of time, escapes me through all my grief and denial.
I'm not surprised. So much pain is associated with Smallville in my distant memory. There are many things I've forgotten, maybe things I've willed myself to forget. It's hard to be sure after all this time.
There was Lana. Pretty Lana and good old Pete. And Chloe. Chloe Sullivan, I think. Lana and Pete and Chloe and ...
I think that's what their names were. I know ... no, I think.
But they are but few among the many. Those many names and dates and memories I've erased as a matter of survival.
Denial is so strong and I, inhuman as my body is, can still be weak in my heart. Weak in a human-like soul that still struggles with ancient mistakes I dare not admit.
For in that soul, I'm not Superman. I'm not perfection and this cold, bleak knowledge could destroy me faster than any Kryptonite ever could -- if I let it.
So I don't. I make sure of my path first and don't ask too many questions after my work is complete, making sure my blinders never loosen to the point of remembering too much.
It's a black and white world for me. I have a past that's been neatly filed away ... compartmentalized ... explained away in a few short paragraphs of nostalgic regret.
I had a good childhood; a few uneventful teen years and maybe a thing or two I could have done better in hindsight, but who in this world couldn't say the same?
I was the all-American boy, grown into the all-American superhero, now come back to commit the all-American murder and when I enter the Luthor mansion, it's in his office where I first see him. Again.
Lex. Young Lex Luthor, twenty-two years old and looking hardly a minute of it. He's sitting at that long glass desk of his, typing on his old-fashioned computer, oblivious to the world around him.
Oblivious to the changed fate that awaits him. The fate that has altered as of right now.
Because I'm going to kill him where he sits. Kill him before he can destroy the humanity he so despises.
The humanity I love more than my own soul.
I have to steel myself to do the deed, and take a minute to remember the faces of the countless dead, when to my surprise, another young man enters from the far side door. It's a young man I know too well.
A young man named Clark Kent.
It takes me a long minute to recognize him. I'd forgotten how lanky and clumsy I was back then, but it's definitely me, wearing my cheap plaid shirt and those dusty, tattered jeans that always were two sizes too big.
But then again, the boy I see isn't me ... not the me I've forced myself to consign to memory.
What was J'onn told me about this journey? Something about the past not being quite what we thought it was?
"Hey." Clark's soft voice, and Lex looks up, delighted. Grins and for the first time in many years, I don't shudder at the sight of Lex Luthor's smile.
"Hey." Longing eyes meet Clark's and hold them captive. "You're early."
We're so ... young. Lex is beautiful beyond any imagining and that thing I couldn't remember, the thing I was trying so hard to forget, edges toward my conscious mind with diamond-sharp clarity.
It was at this time, so long ago, Lex and I weren't enemies.
We were ...
"Early bird gets the prize," and Clark Kent leans down to kiss the one I came to kill. Such a kiss. A kiss filled with desire, desperation, need -- and adoration. A kiss that's shared by ...
"Lucky me," Lex whispers against Clark's lips before taking them again with his own.
A kiss shared by lovers. Lovers. We were lovers then and my mind reels at its vast betrayal of self.
I can't stop the scream that comes from my mouth. "NO!"
My voice fills the room and both of them whirl around to gape at me ... horrified. Panic in their eyes, and I remember other things. The terrible fear of getting caught. Anti-sodomy laws, Kansas statutes, and I wonder if guilt is what made me forget, but I doubt it.
It was how our love ended that forced me to deny everything or lose my mind entirely.
Oh, God ... Lex. My Lex. The one I hate ... and love.
But these two, this Lex and Clark, don't understand any of my shock. All they know is some burly stranger is threatening their happiness -- perhaps even their lives.
Unfortunately, they're right. I did come here to kill after all.
The Clark I was steps forward. "Get out of here," he growls, his large hands balling into fists. "This is a private house." Scare tactic, and he plants himself firmly in front of Lex, his stance protective in the extreme.
That doesn't surprise me. Poor, noble fool I was back then.
But something else happens that forces me to look twice.
It's Lex. He's standing and tugging furiously on Clark's arm, trying to pull him away from me. "Run, Clark," he hisses, yanking stubbornly on the red flannel. "Get out."
"No, Lex." Stubborn too, but that's never changed, not even after all these years. He turns back to me. "You're going to leave here or I'm going to show you the way out," Clark snarls at me, blue eyes flashing brilliantly. "You'll regret it if you don't."
He takes a menacing step forward and I have no choice. I stride up to him and before he can react, his slim wrist is clutched in my fist.
He tries to shake it loose, disdainfully at first, then with dawning horror when he realizes I'm as strong as he is, a discovery that's shocking to say the least.
Panicked, Clark struggles to pull away and to my vast surprise, Lex leaps over his desk, seemingly intent on saving a life instead of destroying one for the first, and most likely, last, time in his miserable existence.
I hear the "shhhhhht" of an epee being drawn and Lex plunges the blade into my throat where it shatters against my skin, tiny pieces clinking to the hardwood floor. Nothing but a handle is left in Lex's hand and his mouth falls open in shock.
That's right. Say hello to Superman, Lex.
He drops back a step, then draws himself up, visibly trembling.
"Please. Let him go." Begging, and I can barely reconcile myself to the sound of Lex Luthor humbling himself in such a manner. "I'm the one you want, isn't it? You came here, to my house, looking for me, not him. Is that right?"
"Correct." The boy I hold struggles hard, so I tighten my grip and he twists beneath the pressure with a moan. A little pain and more than a little fear since he's suddenly no longer the only one of his kind in the universe. Sort of. "It's you I've come to deal with, Lex."
"Then deal with me."
Flat, businessman's tone and this is the Lex Luthor I know. Maybe that will make what I have to do that much easier.
Or maybe not. Clark's other arm comes shooting toward my jaw and I grab that as well, holding both wrists in one hand, tugging his entire body aloft, letting the feet dangle. A long leg swings out to kick me and I really have to give my teenage self some credit. I had more than a little spunk back then.
I wonder what part of that was Lex's doing.
"Put him down and deal with me." Still calm, and Lex is staring into my eyes. A relentless stare I know well. "I'm sure we can work something out."
Work something out, Lex? I suppose we could. I supposed I could snap your neck with my free hand or crush your windpipe with ease. Slit your jugular open with my fingernail and you'll truly rain blood then, drenching your priceless carpets instead of a ruined Earth.
I suppose I could work something out.
But what would happen to the boy who writhes with such indignity in my grip? What would he learn from witnessing his lover's murder? With his trauma and hatred unleashed on a world not quite ready for a superhuman madman, he'd be nothing but a furious boy who'd know how easy it is for him to kill because he's seen it done in the most horrific way imaginable.
He wouldn't be able to forget his hatred ... not like I'd forgotten.
It's easier to forget love than hatred so it seems. So much easier.
What was it J'onn said when we last spoke? "History has a way of sticking to the script, Kal-El. Hearts, not lives, must be changed."
Damn you, J'onn. Right again.
"Yes, I came for you, Lex," I say slowly, making sure they're both listening carefully. "However, now that I have this young man's attention, I think my purposes might be better served talking with him. Alone."
I tighten my grip on the boy's wrists and prepare for flight. A sharp cry of pain from Clark, and Lex hurls himself at me, cursing wildly.
He's just a split second too late. The boy and I are already away, bursting through the castle ceiling, ancient bricks shattering in our wake.
"CLARK!" Lex's anguished wail echoes beneath us and we fly through the Smallville night, as if for the first time.
For both of us.
I set us down in the old farmer's field and Clark rolls away from me, prepared to battle, but I stop him with a stern look.
"There's no use in fighting," I say firmly. "So you can stop whatever you're planning, right now."
His questions come rattling out with impressive speed. "Who are you?" he gasps. "Are you from where I came from? Are we related? How did you know where I was? Why did you come?"
I ignore all the questions but one. "I came here to kill Lex Luthor."
He looks as if I've thrown a bucket of molten Kryptonite on him. "No," he says, his eyes wild. "I won't let you."
"You wouldn't be able to stop me."
"Then I guess I'll die trying." He throws himself at me and I hold him off with one arm. I was much weaker back then. Interesting.
"You can't die," I say matter-of-factly, shoving him back. He lands on his ass, hard. "And neither can I. At least not by any conventional methods."
Clark grimaces horribly and I sympathize. Immortality is a nice idea but no one really wants it. Not when one realizes exactly what it entails.
He quickly changes the subject. "Why do you want to kill Lex? Why do you want him dead?"
"Too many reasons to count," I answer truthfully. "But the question you have to ask yourself is -- what would you do to save him?"
Trembling, he wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand. "Anything."
"Would you accept the fact that's he's lying to you, right now, even as he takes you into his bed? That with every kiss he's betraying you?"
"Lex isn't ..."
"Shut up and listen," I growl. "Would you start questioning him? Make him tell you the truth? Call him on his secrets?"
"How can I call him on his secrets?" he spits, his glare bright with fury. "When I can't tell him mine?"
The truth of this statement leaves me breathless. Yes, it's true. I lied to my lover Lex, again and again, even as I was whispering sweetness in his ear. I never could adequately explain how I ended up saving all the lives I did, how I escaped accidents without a scratch -- never to a man as intelligent as Lex at any rate. That was the beginning of our end, the beginning of everyone's end.
Lex Luthor wasn't the only liar in Smallville -- he simply got caught first.
"Then tell him your damn secret," I growl and the hazel eyes turn huge. "Tell him exactly what you are and where you came from. After that, challenge him on his. Take him to task. Make him tell you the truth even if you have to beat it out of him. Show him why what he does is wrong. That he's doing it all for the wrong reasons. Show him his father's idea of an empire is an illusion -- nothing more than a small man's hubris and tell him how it will destroy them both."
I swallow hard. "Break him, Clark. Break Lex into pieces if you have to, then put him back together. Rebuild him with all the love you have. Because if you don't ..."
"What happens then?" Frightened voice, but he has to know.
"Then he dies. And with him, everything else."
He blinks at me and then, after what feels like a lifetime, he nods. I can tell we're remembering the old blind fortuneteller, Cassandra, and things finally click into place.
For both of us.
"All right," he says shakily. "I'll try my best. But I don't know if I'll succeed."
I want to laugh then, gather him in my arms and hug him forever, but I'm sure there are some cosmic laws against it. Instead, I clasp his shoulder warmly. "Get used to the feeling."
He looks down, abashed and saddened to the core. "Yeah." He pauses. "By the way, I don't suppose you'd know anything about my parents, would you?"
"I know a lot about your parents," I reply solemnly. "They're the two most wonderful people I've ever had the honor of knowing. They adore you and it takes a lot of guts to adore a creature one finds in a burning field emerging from a spaceship." I eye him carefully. "And if you're talking about your 'real' parents, let me assure you, so am I." I hesitate. "Clark."
A dry laugh, and he smiles wryly at me. "Thanks, um ... what's your name again?"
Sneaky little bastard, I think and I chuckle before taking off to find my way back to my world. If there's any world left to return to. "Goodbye, Clark," I call down to him, before hitting the cold night sky.
As I fly, I see the Kent farm below me and I circle it twice and take off hurriedly before my overwhelming desire to give my beloved parents one last exasperating moment passes.
They've had enough of those from me to last a lifetime. Ten lifetimes, I guess.
Here's hoping there's just one more lifetime left in Fate's bag of tricks for the rest of humanity.
The return trip is much more painful than my departure. I wonder if I've calculated correctly or if this gross misuse of physics isn't just a bad dream. With appalling suddenness, I land back in Metropolis and the first thing I hear is the honk of a car horn.
It's loud, it's annoying, and it's possibly the most wonderful sound I've ever heard. Because it means the world ... my world ...exists again.
It means that people are alive, the streets are bustling and when I look up I see a yellow sun nestled in a clear sky of blue. No clouds of smoke, no acid rain that looks like blood -- nothing but honest sunshine for as far as the eye can see.
It's the most beautiful sight of my life.
Ecstatic, I fly into my apartment, or at least where I think my apartment used to be. Immediately, I notice things are decidedly different, every room just slightly off. It's bigger and much neater, and it soon becomes obvious I'm not the only person living in that particular residence.
"You haven't been playing around with that thing again, have you?"
Lex's voice, right behind me. I whirl around, every hair on my neck standing at defensive attention. "What?"
"You heard me." A well-shod foot taps against the floor. Lex is dressed casually, all in black, in his usual dark turtleneck and tailored slacks. He's incredibly relaxed looking and I can't help but stare him up and down, finally deciding to settle my gaze on his hands. Those beautiful, delicate hands I remember very well. It's then I see it.
His right hand. There, the naked skin free of black leather.
An ordinary flesh and bone hand and a wild hope rises in me.
"Clark, you know it's not safe to manipulate that foam." Lex's arms are crossed and his face is lined with an annoyed expression, but that's all. The hate, the rage ... the evil that's always personified him for me ... is gone. Completely. "And it's useless for whatever heroic feat you were trying to accomplish. I thought we discussed this already. " Lex sidles up to me and grazes a finger over the device's edge. "Maybe I should destroy it."
Breathe, Kent ... breathe, I chant silently to myself. "Maybe you should."
Lex raises an eyebrow. "You're agreeing with me? Not even putting up the slightest bit of a fight? This is a novelty." A slow smile crosses his face. A stunning smile, without bitterness of any sort and he's as beautiful as he was nearly twenty years before. "Are you trying to seduce me, Clark?"
Playful tone but I can feel it, the desire is there. The desire that we once shared.
Heat fills my face and I shrug. "No ... yes ... I dunno."
All those memories flooding back in a rush, becoming a new reality. Memories of making love to Lex in the old barn loft, of nights spent together in his castle, hours fucking wildly on the roof of his car ... years of happiness spent as one. Memories of promises and threats and cries of passion that can't be erased. Never again.
"I think you know." Lex puts his hands on each side of my waist and peers into my eyes before smiling at my flushed cheeks. "My, my. Such blushing. So tell me, are we playing Virgin Farmboy and Sullen Boy Billionaire this evening? If so, let me get some produce for you to deliver."
I have to laugh aloud at this. The sound of my own laughter is so welcome, I nearly weep. It's hard to believe -- I suddenly have life and laughter and ... love. This has to be a dream. The best dream I've ever had and I swear I'm never waking up again. "I'm sorry. I don't know what's gotten into me."
"I can," he teases. He leans up to tug at my bottom lip with his teeth and kisses me, hard, before pulling back with a seductive grin. "Get into you, that is."
God, I should be disgusted. I should be horrified and nothing is further from my heart. I love him again, just as Clark Kent once did and Kal-El tried to forget. But I'm Clark now and Lex's kisses set me on fire, maybe in ways I never truly understood. Ways I could never quite forget.
But I have a brand new lifetime to understand.
All reviews are welcome below. Thanks for reading - ingrid (lexluvsclark)