Dress My Face In Stone
Disclaimer: Smallville does not belong to me. Millar & Gough don't belong to me, despite how much I want them to live in my cupboard. sigh Lex's pants also do not belong to me. Pooh.
Summary: Clex. Clark breaks off his friendship with everyone in Smallville, and jets off to Gotham with Bruce Wayne to learn how to control his powers… and maybe learn about controlling his emotions, too.
Takes place in a sort of AU where in Clark's Big Bad Red!Kryptonite summer, Bruce Wayne saved him, and Clark sort of did too. You'll learn more in following chapters ;)
Chapter One - Leaving
And his head is down, and his hands are sprawled against the wall, cold gravel digging into his palms, but he doesn't care. Not now, not like this.
"I can't," he says, the words sounding weak and pathetic even to his own ears. He can picture their expressions, changing, slanting, disbelieving, confused. "I can't."
He turns, slumps against the coldness, head down, staring at his worn trainers. There, that was a good idea. He can study his old shoes. The ends are grey when new they were white, so bright Pete joked about them for a whole month about how he needed sunglasses to wear them, and one lace is undone, trailing to the floor. The grey of the lace is almost lost on the grey of the floor, and he is almost distracted trying to tell the two apart.
"I can't-" and he's forcing himself to speak again, looking down at the ground through a curtain of dark hair that's fallen down - "I can't be your friend any more. Any of you. I-" I'm not right for you "I'm dangerous. And I- I can't risk that you'd be hurt because of me. By me. I mean-"
The words are hard, but not harder than the content. Staring at his winding lace, at its myriad twists on the stony ground, makes it somehow easier.
"I lie. All the time. You've all mentioned it, and it's true. I do." The wind whistles in his ears like a train, high pitched, deafening. He raises his voice to fight it. "And I have two options, to not lie here, or to not lie elsewhere. And not lying here-- It would--"
"Clark, I really don't understand, we're your friends-" Chloe sounds shocked, but stands to reason she would be the first to speak after his outburst, god knows he thought Lex might, but he knows his rich friend is just as shocked as Chloe and Lana and Pete.
"And I can't return that friendship. Never have been able to." He raises his head now, face set, determination swallowing his eyes to wallow them to a steely grey. He can almost see Lex out of the corner of one eyes, whose face is a blank canvas. Pete is slumped, like he expected it, like he can't fight any more. Lana and Chloe are both bristling with confusion, Chloe looking like Clark just told her gravity went the other way around and Lana looking almost a ghost of her fairy princess self. "Can't now."
"What's changed? Why now?" Lana's voice held a sharp pleading edge. "We've survived freaks and mutants all the time, Clark. And if you're one- We'll help you through it. Just don't run away from us again. Clark"
She speaks his name as if he was something special, and it hurts.
He spits out the last words, even though god be damned it hurt it hurt so much. "If our friendship- what we had- ever meant anything, then you'll- Leave me alone. Leave me and my family alone. You won't-" bug, press, annoy "-investigate why. You just have to accept that I can't lie, and I can't tell the truth, and- if I stay, you're asking me to--" He looks down again. "You're asking me to be someone I'm not."
"Running doesn't help anything, Clark." There, now Lex is speaking, hurt open and tremulous in his voice. His face betrays nothing. "Running away never does."
"I'm not-" Clark says. His voice doesn't sound his own. It sounds almost, ironically, alien. Kal-El. "Sometimes it's all you can do." He doesn't look back up, he just runs, runs like the wind, at half-speed, his head down all the way. He can hear Chloe sprinting after him for a minute, flinging curses as she stops on the hill, and he can see in his mind her bright hair flying in the night sky, frustrations and tears on her face, and he shakes the image away. He doesn't superspeed home, just a mocking version of it, and when he does get home, he looks at his mom, stood worried at the door and nods as if to say I did it. She's sad, so sad, but he can't take that right now, and he runs to the loft.
And hides under the blankets on his couch, like he used to do when he was small and mom and dad said no to him doing normal kid stuff, and doesn't raise his head until dawn falls.
"It's so quiet." Martha sank half-heartedly into one of their identical kitchen chairs, perching on the end with the oven gloves dangling off one hand, onto the floor. A sweet, wholesome smell wafted from her buzzing oven, but it seemed almost dull in the sombre atmosphere.
"That's a blessing," Jonathan returned, calloused hands tight around his coffee as he blew on it to cool it down. A thousand aches bristled across his broad shoulders, which he ignored. "No more knocking on the doors, constant phone calls. I never imagined it would ever have to- go that far."
His voice trailed as he spoke, and their eyes locked in muted understanding. They'd understood Clark's determined resolve to break contact with his friends, and worried over it in equal amounts. But Clark believed the balance of having his friends safe - even though they couldn't be safe - and being lonely against having friends and putting them in danger didn't quite work out. And if he believed it, they'd support him. It's all they'd ever done, all they could ever do.
"It hurts to see him hurting so much." Martha lowered her gaze to the table, and brought it up again, finding strength in her love's face, knowing he shared her feelings on the matter. "It feels wrong, Jonathan. They should have a place in his life. It's not his fault about the meteors, anything, and he's done more good than not."
"I know, and I feel it, too. But Clark's old enough to make his own decisions, and it's a good plan to make a clean break for Metropolis. Use his abilities in a bigger role, like-" Jonathan shuffled awkwardly on the chair.
"Like Batman, you mean?" Martha's face crumpled into a smile. "You can't even say it."
Jonathan huffed, but not in a bad way. "Damn right, it's strange. Superheroes, sidekicks, spandex..." Martha suppressed a giggle. "It ought to have stayed in the pages of a comic book or science fiction novel or something," he finished uncomfortably.
"Your only son is an alien, Jonathan, we are novelly science fiction." A laugh echoed out into the kitchen that somewhat emptily demanded three people to occupy it. "I'm just relieved he won't have to spend all summer being bombarded by them." No need to say who them was. They both knew.
"Just the beginning bit," Jonathan said grouchily, sipping nervously at the coffee, holding the mug in his large hands gingerly. "Maybe we ought to send out a bulletin. Attention, Smallville. Clark Kent won't be at home during the summer vacation so don't bother being pesky."
"Ah, that's what I loved most about you, your eloquence." Martha smirked at him. Jonathan scowled, set down the still too-hot coffee, and stepped forwards, scooping Martha up from the chair and into a semi-tilted embrace.
"As opposed to my romantic side, I suppose," he drawled, kissing her, tangling his hands in her hair.
"Oh, as opposed to that," Martha breathily agreed, a smile alighting her beautiful face. Jonathan beamed predatorily, swinging her up into his arms, when the banging at the door interrupted. Martha pulled a small face and hopped down. "Maybe that bulletin isn't such a bad idea, after all."
Jonathan moved to open the door, frowning heavily at the three visitors. Pete wasn't amongst them, had probably come under harsh fire for not being so, but Pete understood. Pete knew why he couldn't be friends with Clark any more. After the cave incident and the red meteor rock, Pete was just as scared as they were.
"Clark's not in," Martha said, leaning regretfully against the table, trying not to see the downcast and angry looks in their eyes.
"Hell he isn't," Chloe snapped back, eyes blazing. Lex, calmer, showing his maturity in his physical restraint, held her back with one arm.
"Chloe." Lex's voice was soft in warning as he looked hard at the young reporter, before looking up to the Kents. "We just want to talk to you, Mrs. Kent." He was deliberately appealing to her, knowing Martha would most likely be the easiest to crumble. "We're worried about Clark."
"Look, kids." Jonathan stepped forwards, firmly on the rise between the door and the step, and folded his arms. "Clark doesn't want you anywhere around, and I'd be much obliged if you acquiesced to my son's request. Pester us all you like, you won't get to Clark."
Lana and Chloe slumped a little, the hope on Lana's face dying. Chloe's mouth opened in an 'o' shape, and a thousand platitudes died on the air, silent.
"I'm sorry you were under the impression that that was an option." Lex, his voice smooth, squeezed past Jonathan into the Kent kitchen as if he wasn't even there. Jonathan fell back, bemused by Lex's confidence, and Chloe and Lana took advantage of his shock to slide in after him.
"Now, look here, this is entering without permission-" Jonathan started, to be stopped by Martha's hand, gentle on his own.
"They'll only be a minute," she said, soft, cajoling. "They need closure, Jonathan."
The look on his face told her that this was so not over.
"Say what you have to say and leave," Jonathan managed, gruff and commanding.
"You know he's avoiding us. Asked us to not- to not be his friends any more." Lana's slight form trembled a little, then her eyes hardened and she stilled. Her dark eyes flashed. "He told us that he's dangerous, and he doesn't want to see us hurt. Although he is hurting us all, badly I may add, by being so pig ignorant as to think we'd abandon him for any secret he had."
"Please, let me finish." Lana shut her eyes tight, before opening them again, fire and adrenaline and passion. "He might not be our friend any more. To be honest, it's up to him. But- he can't stop us from- He's still our friend. Our best friend. Nothing he can say or do will ever, ever change that."
Lex and Chloe were nodding heavily in agreement.
"And- we'll always be ready to- to have him back fully again," Chloe said. "Whatever his secret is, we can deal."
"And we can take measures to protect ourselves from any fallout, Mr. Kent, Mrs. Kent." Lex's face was hard. Stone. "Clark says his secret could hurt us, and we trust his judgement. We've all seen him doing crazy stuff, things that can't be believed. Being hit by bullets-" A regretful pause. "Cars..."
"Starting fires when he was nowhere near them," Lana said tightly. "Saving us from impossible situations." A tight smile. "Flying, for goodness' sake."
"Disappearing. Having good things inexplicably happen around him, impossible good things." Chloe looked down at her entwined hands. "And we understand why he wouldn't tell us, it's just-"
"I really don't see what you're accusing him of, but it's not true." Martha stepped forwards, blue eyes warm and pleading. "Clark's saved all your lives, because he's a good, honest, warm person. If he says he is avoiding you to prevent you from being hurt, then-- I have no idea why it's necessary, but if he believes it, I believe it. And so should you."
"Clark said lying has torn him apart," Lex said, his eyes and voice like flint. "I just hope it doesn't do the same for your family." He turned on his heels, strode out of the small room, dark coat swirling like a cape around his feet. Chloe and Lana just held their gazes for a long, agreeing second before following him out. The screech of a car told them they'd gone.
Martha fell back into Jonathan's arms as they stared back at the empty yard, quiet with worry.
It still seemed to take the same amount of time.
Clark could feel where the veins traced up now, but it didn't stop it hurting just as badly. If anything, the more times he did it, the more it hurt, because it was skin, going up and down and up and down, and his didn't really do that all that often. He kept the lid open as long as he could, a good twelve seconds, before kicking it shut and falling to his knees. Clenching his eyes shut, he knelt with his forehead falling against the cold lead surface of the box containing the fragment of green Kryptonite.
There were voices he knew, recognised, and footfalls. He despised himself violently for a few more seconds before scrambling around, one leg hunched to his chest the other sprawled in the direction of the steps, where they were standing.
"What the hell are you doing?" Lex was hurrying forwards, eyes narrowed, disbelief etched on his already immortalized face. "Drugs? I thought you were smarter than that, Clark."
"'s not-" Clark began, then froze. He slid easily to his feet, with more grace than he'd ever shown in the presence of Lana Lang. Chloe and Lana noticed, their faces dry with fear and worry. "You shouldn't be here," he said, quiet.
Lex shot an angry look at the lead container on Clark's desk. "So you can sit here and hide and destroy yourself? Clark, jeez-" And Lex swore violently, slamming his fist into one of the wooden banisters.
"Get the hell out of here," Clark growled out, feeling his strength slowly return, curling in his stomach like a small rush. "Or I'll call the police. Trespassing."
"And I'll call the police," Lex returned, just as viciously. "Drug possession is illegal, Clark."
"They'll find no drugs," Clark said humourlessly, his eyes meeting Lex's hollowly. "Nor will they find traces of drugs if they do a drug test."
"Then what-" Lex started.
"It's none of your business," Clark said softly. "Leave me be."
"Leave you to hide, you mean," Lana said, her voice ringing out accusingly.
"Hide, mope, whinge, kill myself- Gee, there's a million options. Only one thing in cement, though. You. Leaving now."
"Clark-" Lex stepped forwards, but then, fast-- too fast-- Clark was there, his hand abruptly on Lex's throat. Lex spluttered, wriggled in Clark's grasp, choked as his feet started to slowly leave the floor.
There was a dull gleam in Clark's eyes as he dropped Lex, pushing him backwards to Chloe and Lana who staggered, fell against the wooden supports of the stairs, caught him and looked up in horror.
"Leave me the fuck alone," Clark said. "Stay the fuck out of my life."
Lex struggled upright in the girls' grasp, his normally placid countenance fiery and harsh, his voice thick. Clark's handprint was red against the pallid white of his skin. "With pleasure," he snarled, shoving Chloe and Lana away and stalking out of the barn.
"Maybe it is a good idea," Chloe added, imperiously turning and following Lex. Lana looked pleadingly at Clark, her elfin face creased with worry, but now tinged with a real fear of Clark's strength.
"I really don't know who you are any more," she whispered, helpless.
"Me neither," Clark admitted, his voice just as light. Her throat constricted, her eyes burned. She turned, and furiously walked away, her head forwards. Disbelief made her steps falter, and when she looked back, Clark was hunched down. Hiding again. Arms wrapped around his knees like he was protecting himself from the whole wide world.
She stopped, stilled in the middle of the open space. Straw carpeted her feet. She raised her chin, defiant now. "Pete's given up on you. Lex will probably back off now. Chloe's damn scared and I don't blame her. But I know you, Clark. Under all the masks you put up, the mystery you hide behind. And I won't give up. Hell will have to be raised on earth for me to give up, 'cause you've never given up on me. I'd be a damn shit of a human being to do the same to you."
Lana saw his back tense, relax, and tense again. His head raised, and he twisted to look at her through a curtain of heavy, black hair. "'m sorry," he admitted, his voice cracking. With hope, she stepped forward, but he shook his head. "I'm so sorry, but this is the way it has to be."
"For now, maybe," she admitted. "But I'll be waiting. We all will. You're too important to us, Clark."
"I-" He opened his mouth as if to say something, and snapped it, stubbornly silent. He turned back to his hunched position. Lana stared at his still back for a long minute before leaving the barn.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Clark?" Jonathan looked at his son, who somehow seemed so small now, clutching a large bag of clothes, paler now the sun was hidden behind a large swarm of clouds. Early summer, and still no real hot weather. An Indian summer was well on its way to becoming a reality. Martha would be pleased, exporting late strawberries was good money.
"I'm sure, dad." Clark smiled at him briefly, looking at the large car. "Mr. Wayne-- helped me out of the whole heap of trouble I got myself into in Metropolis, and- he knows. He can help me- control. Control my own strength."
Jonathan flickered a distrustful look at the large, brooding businessman.
"Clark is a gifted young man," Mr. Wayne soothed. "And there are those who would abuse his gifts. I am not one of them. I owe him my life, no doubt about it, and in return maybe I can help him find a little of the peace he needs after this eventful year."
"Being away from Smallville will do him good, Jonathan," Martha said, although it sounded more like it was to convince herself than him. "And he'll call."
"Every day, mom, I promise," Clark said, bending down and giving them both an impromptu hug and kiss on the cheek. "After everything--" He paused. He didn't need to fill in the gaps. "After Metropolis, not much has made sense to me, except for the need to control what I am, what I can do. I don't want to hurt anyone any more."
There were other words, of course, in the goodbyes. More hugs, kisses, reprimands, suggestions, orders, but they seemed to breeze by Clark and then he was in the car, and the landscape was blurring by their windows.
"You okay, kid?"
Clark scrunched his nose up, and looked across at Bruce's profile. His hard, chiseled face was stern, but he suspected he could see the hint of a grin playing on Bruce's lips.
"Yeah. I- thanks for this, Bruce."
Bruce's eyes smiled. "No problem. You've kept my secret for a year-"
"-and vice versa," Clark instantly butted in. "I think alien teenager is more controversial than billionaire caped crusader."
"And you saved my life," Bruce said. "Don't even contradict that I saved yours, because you saved mine twice."
"We keeping score?" Clark asked, rolling his eyes to the ceiling of the car and settling them on the bushes and fields that scraped by the window. He felt an ache of regret when Lex's mansion sped through the blur and disappeared, which didn't quite go away. Lex didn't deserve what Clark had done to him. None of them did.
"I-" Clark started, but didn't get to finish his sentence as a blur of silver glinting ahead caught his attention, and Bruce's too. The large billionaire slammed on the breaks, executing a neat stop an inch away from the car that had blurred onto the road. Clark's stomach fell. He knew that car, and its single occupant.
Bruce growled. It came from the back of his throat. Clark looked at him, a little fearful.
"Let me handle this, Kal-El," Bruce said smoothly, and Clark started in protest, to say it wasn't his name, and even that fell silent in his throat. Clark wished he could sink further into his seat, but it wasn't possible, so instead Clark trained his superhearing on the conversation two of the richest people in the world were having barely feet away from him.
"Imagine my surprise when I find out that you're in town," Lex is saying. Bruce leans, one large hand on the bonnet of his car, and assumes a bored expression. "And visiting the Kent farm. I had no idea they were... acquaintances."
Bruce sees Lex flicker a look at his car, and do a double take, and knows he's seen Clark Kent huddled in the car. He doesn't look back himself, not wanting to incense Lex further, but can imagine the embarrassment the boy is feeling.
"You aren't expected to know everything in the world, Lex," Bruce says softly, almost purring. He knows his laidback attitude annoys Lex. "Although I suppose your father thinks otherwise."
"This isn't about my father," Lex snaps, letting Bruce know he's hit Lex's sorest nerve, "this is about Clark Kent."
Bruce laughs out loud, flashing pearly white teeth at Lex. "The boy? What, am I playing with your fucktoy? I had no idea... Really. He's such a good lay, I should have guessed you'd had something to do with his training."
Bruce watches Lex's face shift through several shades of pale. He's shocked Lex and pushed at a raw nerve. Not a bad day's work, really.
"He's not- I di-" Lex's moment of fluster is brief. "Clark and I are friends. A Luthor friendship is nothing to be toyed with, or messed with, or broken." He levels Bruce with a hard-edged stare, with a passionate glint to his silver-ash eyes, and Bruce is almost surprised by the emotion, only nothing much shocks him nowadays. "If you hurt him, I swear I'll find you and hurt you so much you'll wish you were dead."
And Lex swirls away in a flurry of expensive cloth to his car, and speeds away without looking at Clark again. Bruce laughs out loud, pleased, and goes back into the car to find Clark looking at him with an unreadable expression. Right, superhearing. "You heard," Bruce says out loud.
Clark nods, his face a little paler than it was.
"I'm sorry," Bruce says, although he's not too sure he is, "I completely cheapened you out there, and to your friend too-"
"-he's not a friend," Clark says, fast. Too fast. "And considering what I was doing in Metropolis when you rescued me." A wry grin crosses his face. "It's good Lex has heard what I'm capable of. Maybe then he'll leave me alone," Clark finishes, his voice having fallen in a diminuendo to a whisper. A plea.
"Still. That had to have been hard for you. I'm sorry," Bruce says, gunning the engine and starting back on the road again, wondering why he feels the need to apologise. Clark looks so fragile, and even though Bruce knows it's not really possible, he looks on the edge of breaking.
"'s fine," Clark mutters, his pale cheeks darkening again.
"Sleep, Kal-El," Bruce instructs, noting Clark's muted surprise in one of the mirrors. "Gotham is a fair distance away."
Clark frowns, as if trying to calculate something. "About how far?"
Bruce looks at the dials on his car for confirmation. "Couple hundred miles."
"Could run that in twenty minutes," Clark says.
Bruce feels his eyebrows rise despite himself. "With me, and the car?"
"We could try," Clark says, a look of mischief on his face.
Chuckling, Bruce keeps hold of the steering wheel. "How about you sleep now, I drive, and we keep you from being picked up by NATO."
Clark flickers an easy middle fingered gesture at him, and sleeps. If he dreams of Chloe's angry face, and Lana throwing kryptonite at him, and Lex dying under his own fingers, he will forget it upon waking.
To be continued