Title: Across the Border
Fandom: Smallville, Clark/Lex
Series: Prequel to Disconnected and Hope's Wings
Warnings: some mildly disturbing images
Challenge: first line challenge "The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there."
Across the Border
The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.
In the past there is a Clark that arrives late at school and bumps shoulders with friends after having run through the corn and leapt over the school bus.
At night, he watches constellations and princesses through his telescope.
He rescues people.
In the past there is a Clark that believes he can protect his friends.
This, however, is the present, and Clark has crossed the border and lost his passport.
“The Ross family would like to thank you all for your support and sympathy.” It’s a well modulated, professional voice that ends the service Clark can’t even remember hearing.
Pete would have called it creepy, and Clark silently agrees with the memory of his friend, as he listens to feet shuffling and pews creaking.
“The funeral procession will be leaving in ten minutes. All friends of the family are invited to join.”
“Honey, it’s time to go now.”
His mother’s weight on his arm is negligible as she leans in close, but the weight of her words in his ear is enough to make standing difficult and he grips the back of the pew he’s been sitting on to help lever himself up into the empty air. She guides his other hand to the pew in front, and he shuffles along keeping a grip on each, and then they end.
He stops, heart beating fast.
His mother squeezes around him and takes his hand to guide him into the boiling throng that is leaving the church. People shift unpredictably, impatient to get around the slow moving, and perhaps slow-witted, Kent boy.
Such a shame.
They were such good friends.
He was there you know.
Well, at least he didn’t have to see it. Not much left you’d recognize.
Oh, is that why they had the closed casket?
He slides his feet along the polished wood of the church floor and grips his mother’s right elbow.
He’s bruised the other one already.
There are no stars to look at and he can’t see the princess.
He can’t do anything about the smoothed finished box or scent of decay that hovers under the cacophony of perfume provided by the flowers.
He can’t even carry the box, because he still can’t tell. Can’t show. Can’t give it away.
His precious secret.
The wood floor gives way to stone, and Clark feels the heat of the sun on his face and he remembers the feel of sun-warmed metal under his palms when he stopped the old convertible.
Pete, we have to talk.
“I’m going to go and pay my respects to Pete’s family.” His mom speaks as she gently transfers his hand from her smooth cotton covered elbow to the polyester arm of his father’s best suit. “Why don’t you go on to the car with your father.”
Because they really don’t need him breaking down and going fetal on them here in public, do they?
“Sure, Mom.” He nods in her general direction, although she might see since her heels are already clicking against stone and moving in the direction a cloud of murmured sympathies that Clark knows are surrounding Pete’s mom.
“There’s a step here, Son.”
His father warns him a moment to late, and he stumbles.
Shoes sliding on stone.
Into strong waiting arms.
“Hey,” It’s half greeting and half exclamation, and the breath is sweet on Clark’s face and there is the scent of something exotic.
“Thank you, Lex, but I’ve got him now.” Polyester replaces wool.
“Of course, Mr. Kent.”
But Clark doesn’t want to let go yet.
“Dad, why don’t you go say good-bye to Mrs. Ross. I can wait here with Lex.”
“Really, Dad. I’m fine.”
“I’ll be happy to wait here with Clark, Mr. Kent.”
His father shifts and fidgets for a moment before finally releasing his hold. “I’ll be right back.”
There is a moment of silence, and Clark keeps his hands from reaching out into the air, but it is strange to stand on his own feet here with nothing to see and no one to guide him.
“I’m sorry about Pete.” Lex’s voice is quiet, and there is something at the end of the sentence. A faint rise in tone. An insecurity.
“What’s wrong, Lex?”
And he thinks Lex is going to say, I thought you would save him.
But instead, “I’m going to have to let Gabe Sullivan go.”
He thinks of the sound of Chloe’s tears.
“I can’t protect him.” Clark isn’t sure Lex meant to say that out loud. “My father assumes that Gabe was the one that told me Dad wasn’t exactly confident in my return to health. He’s out for blood.”
“You didn’t tell him it was me?”
It was like hearing bones snap, only Lex didn’t know enough to scream for help. Or maybe he thought Clark would run.
“Lex, this is just like before. He’s trying to separate you from everyone that’s loyal to you. You’re playing right into his hand!”
“I don’t remember ‘before’, Clark.” It’s a vicious, hopeless whisper, like a metal splinter piercing a lung.
“So let me remember for you.” Clark puts all his strength into his voice. “I can tell you, Lex. Anything you want to know. Anything.”
Across the silence comes the staccato tap of his mother’s heels.
“Clark, you father is bringing the car around.” A hand on his elbow pulling him away. “Thanks, Lex, for staying with him.”
“I almost forgot, Clark. I meant to give this to you.” A smooth hand takes his and long fingers flatten his palm with a warm piece of plastic. “I know it’s not easy for you to visit the mansion now. I don’t want to lose touch.”
Clark closes his hand gently around the cell phone.
“Call me, Lex. Anytime.”
“Thanks, Clark. I will.”
This is the present. Clark is different here.