Summary: Lex is present at two funerals.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: Somewhat over three years after the first season of "Smallville."

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@charter.net) and let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Dedication: To Skye, whose recent stories have inspired me to continue to improve my own.


LAST RITES


Part I


It was a hot July afternoon when they gathered to bury Clark Kent. Fortunately, the service itself was held inside the Smallville Community Center, which was at least air conditioned. The Kents had intended to hold the service in a smaller venue, but the news of their son's death had produced an outpouring of grief that had their phone ringing almost constantly in the two days following the public announcement, and Lex had predictably stepped in and rented the center. One by one, the mourners filed in: former classmates, teachers, and other inhabitants of the town who had come to know and love the shy, handsome young man who had been struck down in such a senseless way. Those closest to him were gathered in the front row, visibly taking comfort in each other's company. The exception to this was Lex, who sat quietly in the rear of the seating area: no one chose to deprive him of his obvious need for privacy.

When all had arrived, and when the doors had been closed, Jonathan Kent rose from his seat and addressed the gathering. He spoke of his son with a quiet, deep pride that was obvious to everyone listening, telling of how Clark had freely given of himself to those around him, and how he had planned to continue to do so in the years following his graduation from Smallville High. Then the accident, and all of that promise was gone. Jonathan Kent paused for a moment, swallowed hard, and concluded, "From what I've heard the last few days, Clark touched all of your lives in some way important to you. If any of you would like to speak, we would be eternally grateful to know how it was that he made your life better, even as we regret that he cannot be here to hear it for himself."

Jonathan sat down, and Chloe stood up, walking to the podium and staring silently at the open casket and Clark's composed, waxy-looking face before turning back to the audience and beginning: "I've known Clark Kent for ten years. Without a doubt, he is the most fundamentally decent, caring, and frustrating human being I have ever met. He is the kind of person who would unhesitatingly put his life at risk for a stranger, then refuse to admit to his friends that it was a big deal. He was painfully shy at times, and I really think he didn't have a clue about just how attractive he was." She took a deep breath, then continued, "I've been away at Metropolis University for the past year, and the worst part of it was only being able to talk to Clark occasionally on the phone and whenever I visited back home. I always told myself that I would just have to be patient, that he would be there next year and that there would be time for that then. . .time enough for everything. I never expected that time would run out so soon."

Chloe blinked rapidly, then left the podium. One by one, others followed. Lana, who had been in Los Angeles looking for an apartment for her freshman year at UCLA when the news about Clark came: the paleness which came from several nights without sleep and little to eat was a stark contrast to the black dress she wore and the redness of her eyes. She spoke quietly of Clark's generosity and the quiet, implacable way that he had managed to win her heart over a period of years. She omitted her continued confusion and regret about how he had abruptly broken up with her two months before, politely but firmly, and how she had in anger refused to speak with him after that moment. When she stopped, her eyes were dry and her expression was blank, but her bearing as she walked quietly back to her seat was one of someone with a weight on her back.

Pete walked up onto the stage: even at eighteen, he still looked like a freshman, but the events of the last few days had taken their toll. He cleared his throat, then began to speak, but made the mistake of looking at the poster sized picture of Clark, which showed him with a cheerful half-smile and an amused look in his eyes. Pete broke down, sobbing quietly, and stood there until Whitney-who had just finished his sophomore year at Michigan State and had been in town to introduce his fiancée to his mother-quietly walked up and led Pete back to his seat, where his parents were waiting with helpless expressions.

For two hours, people walked up to the podium and talked about Clark. A liquor store owner remembered how Clark had been nearby when the freak earthquake from two years before had wrecked a good deal of his store, and how Clark had helped him salvage what he could from the mess, in addition to cleaning up. Principal Kwan spoke fondly of a young man who-while not completely immune to the temptation to misbehave occasionally-was a worthy example to those around him. Whether it was pulling them out of the flaming wreckage of a truck, or simply a kind word at a moment when it was really needed, they remembered him, and most left the podium smiling through their tears. As time went on, more and more people started glancing back to where Lex Luthor sat: he seemed to be carved from stone. When the last person had left the stage, Jonathan Kent, visibly moved by the warmth displayed by the mourners, walked back up on the stage and looked out to where Lex was sitting. After a moment, Lex blinked, then met Jonathan's eyes and shook his head slowly. Jonathan nodded, then called out, "Thank you all for your attendance and your thoughts. The graveside service will be in an hour: anyone who wishes to come is welcome."

Most of the crowd filed out, leaving Clark's parents and friends to attend to final matters, including arranging the transportation of the coffin to the cemetery. Lex got up from his seat and walked in silence to the coffin, reaching into a pocket and pulling out a small object, pinning it to Clark's collar. Martha Kent quietly walked over to look at it: it was a loop of gold trailing off to a slightly open bottom, with a bar passing perpendicularly through the narrow part of the loop, and a single large diamond resting at the point where the bar crossed the loop. She smiled and rested her hand on his shoulder, feeling the tension there, before asking quietly, "What is it, Lex? I've seen that somewhere before, I think."

"It's called an ankh." Lex spoke quietly, and Chloe and Lana drifted closer, sensing that Lex was speaking of something of great importance to him. Lex looked down at Clark's still form, and continued, "In ancient Egypt, it was the symbol of life, both in this world and in the next. My mother told me about it when I was seven, and it stuck in my head, I guess: the symbol of life for a civilization that flourished for four thousand years before time and events finally brought it down. It was a magnificent concept, and I saw it as a challenge, to do and create things that would endure as it did." He bowed his head, and whispered, "I thought Clark would be there, to see them, and to create greatness of his own." He closed his eyes, then turned away, walking off as the others watched him go with compassion in their eyes.


* * * * *


The coffin slowly sank into the grave, as the mourners silently watched. The tombstone was of white marble, and the engraving on it was succinct:

CLARK KENT

1986-2005

BELOVED SON AND FRIEND


The friends stood, and in turn they each sent one shovel full of dirt into the grave, watching as it tumbled downward and struck the polished wood of the coffin. After they had finished, the service ended and the mourners gathered to pay their respects to the Kents. Lana saw that Lex was slipping away at the edges of the crowd, and her mouth set in a thin line as she walked after him and called out softly, "Lex, are you coming back to the Kents' house with us?"

Lex turned, and Lana saw that the cold smile that was so often visible on his face was absent: Lex looked tired, and old. He blinked, and Lana watched as he visibly composed himself, and he managed a genuine smile as he replied, "They never wanted me there when he was alive, Lana: it's only fair that I respect their wishes now that he's gone." Lana opened her mouth to protest, but Lex shook his head sadly and concluded, "Let it go, Lana. Go with them, and remember him. He deserves that." He turned away and walked off, leaving Lana to shake her head in sadness and frustration.

Lex reached his car, and was about to open the door when he straightened and sighed, calling out, "Not like you to attend a funeral you had no part in causing."

"That's a bit harsh, don't you think?" Lex turned, and Lionel Luthor was standing ten feet away, his limo visible some distance behind him. The last three years had put a little more gray in the beard and wrinkles on the face, but the eyes were as intense as they had always been, and the older man carefully studied his son before adding quietly, "I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner, Lex. Even these days, word can be slow to get to Antarctica."

"I'm not sure why you bothered. It's not like you ever asked to meet Clark, or showed any curiosity about him, for that matter." Lex's tone was harsh, and the glare he directed at his father was quite worthy of the elder Luthor as he added, "Unless you include the private detectives you sent to investigate him and his family, of course. I'll give you this: at least they were subtle this time."

"Experience has its dividends." Lionel shrugged, and walked next to Lex. They stood silently for a moment, then Lionel added, "He was an extraordinary young man, particularly for someone growing up in a place like this. He was a worthy choice for a right hand man for you, son. . .he would have been a great asset to the company."

Lex leaned forward, placing his hands on the car door and swallowing hard before turning back to his father and snarling, "Don't you dare! If you think I would have ever put Clark in a position where you'd ultimately have control over his destiny, you're deluded-or senile." His expression tightened, and he concluded contemptuously, "Don't you have any competitor's daughters to seduce?"

Lionel scowled, then turned away, signaling to his driver as he stalked back to his car. Lex watched the limo drive off in a cloud of dust, then shook his head and got into his car, not looking back at the workers filling in the grave.


* * * * *


Lex's eyes snapped open, and he looked around for a moment, trying to identify what had awakened him. His eyes fell on a small blue light next to a doorway: it was flashing slowly and a low hum was coming from the speaker underneath it. He felt a cold rage fill him as he quickly dressed and walked over to the door, entering an access code in the panel next to it. The door lock clicked open, and Lex walked into a small room containing various items of electronic equipment. He threw a few switches, and a small screen lit up. Lex watched intently: the screen remained on, but blank, for five minutes, and he was beginning to wonder if a gopher had managed to awaken him from a sound sleep when a bright dot appeared on the screen. Lex's jaw tightened, and he pressed a few more switches, one of which triggered a tight-beam radio message to a satellite resting in geosynchronous orbit. Lex stared at the screen for a moment, then stood up and went back to bed. The equipment would do its job now, and when he woke up in the morning, he would know what would have to be done, and where to do it.


* * * * *

Lex sped along the road, in shock at what he had just discovered. When he had examined the readings from the equipment, he had checked the results twice, then driven to a now-familiar location to confirm a suspicion. What had started as a wild hope now was a cold certainty, and he was aware that the anger he had felt was still quite present, though thoroughly entangled with rather different emotions.

Lex screeched to a stop and got out of his car, walking quickly towards the front door of the house. The screen door opened, and Martha Kent stared at the intruder as she called out, "Lex? What in the world--?"

"Hello, Mrs. Kent? Mind if I come in?" Lex barged past the stunned woman, his eyes sweeping the room. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, but he knew better. He heard the footsteps behind him, and he turned, grinning and calling out, "Mr. Kent. Long time no see."

Jonathan Kent took a deep breath: whatever issues he had with Lex, he knew the young man was not at his best right now. He met Lex's calm stare and suggested, "Lex, why don't we go out to the barn? There are some things of Clark's there that I know he'd have wanted you to have."

"Really? And how exactly do you know that, Mr. Kent?" The Kents both blinked as Lex asked the question in a cheerful, irreverent voice. Lex frowned and added, "It doesn't seem right, giving a guy's stuff away without consulting him. . .so why don't you have him come out here and tell me himself?"

Martha paled, and Jonathan reddened momentarily before calming himself again and replying in a low, grim tone, "Lex, I know you're hurting, but this is not acceptable behavior. Clark's dead: you're just going to have to deal with it like the rest of us."

"I noticed there wasn't an autopsy, Jonathan." Lex's tone was matter of fact: he paced absently as the Kents watched him with increasingly upset expressions. He looked back at Jonathan and added, "Which is not surprising: everyone in Smallville knows that it's more likely that the Earth would stop rotating than that you'd do anything to hurt Clark." He smiled coldly, then concluded, "That being said, I can make two phone calls, and Clark will be exhumed and an autopsy will be conducted faster than you can say 'Zachary Taylor.' Now, I repeat: where's Clark?"

"You miserable son of a--!" Jonathan Kent strode forward, drawing his hand back to punch the intruder in the jaw, while Lex stood there, preparing to block the punch without hurting Clark's father-

"Stop it."

Both men froze: Jonathan slumped in defeat, while Lex tensed with the effort it took to remain composed as he turned and saw Clark, very much alive and watching him with a look of profound sadness on his face. He smiled and called out, "Can't wait to hear you explain this one."

Clark inclined his head, and motioned for Lex to follow him upstairs. Jonathan stood in silence, while Martha watched the two friends head up to Clark's room and muttered, "I wouldn't mind hearing that, either."


. . .to be continued


As before, comments are welcome and desired.