by Justine

Thanks to Alanna and elynross for the beta-reads; the advice I took made it much better, and the advice I didn't take would probably have done the same. Shout-outs to Lanning and to The Spike, both of whose stories influenced this one pretty heavily (you'll know which stories as you go).

by Justine

For Livia's X-Files Title Challenge
Sanguinarium: literally, "place of blood"

Every night he wakes, at three-thirty and at five-fifteen. Edges of REM sleep, perhaps. Lex could chart it, compare it to the time he gets into bed. Sometimes he goes to bed early in this cowtown; eleven-thirty or midnight. Usually he's up until one or two, sometimes a little later. He can always find something to do, something to take the edge off; exercise, experimentation, a little judicious embezzlement. The three Es.

But no matter when he sleeps, he wakes at the same time; he thinks about graphing it. Twice every night, a five-minute window around each time, similar imagery. Dispassionate consideration of the phenomenon is the only way he can find enough distance.

It all started after he'd held Cassandra Carver's small, dry, dead hand in his own.

Blood rains down on him, sometimes; sometimes it gushes from Clark's throat, or his mother's heart, the way she lay there. For one whole week it was Julian, pressed against a brick wall until the blood ran down from his tiny body like a juiced fruit.

He never dreams of anyone he actually wants to kill. He wishes sometimes he could order a murder, as if from a menu. But the more he tries to direct the dream, make it lucid, the more horrific the results. He knows there's murder in him; he knows he's capable of it, if he had to be. But in the dreams it's not his own hand that's the cause; the hands are invisible. Things fall apart; things he can't lose are crushed and broken before his eyes.

There's so much blood. And it's out of his control.

He wakes twice a night, screaming into his pillow; it can sometimes take an entire minute for him to regain control, to maintain the illusion of sanity. If this was what Cassandra saw, he's not surprised it killed her.

Clark wakes twice every night; it doesn't seem to matter when he gets to sleep. He jumps awake with a start around three-thirty, and again right after his dad gets up and out to the barn -- five-fifteen or so.

He can never remember what's in the dream, or why he wakes up. There's just this sense of almost, or *just-missed-it* -- a frustration, a sense of loss. It's been going on since Cassandra, when he saw all that he could do, and become.

And he's afraid that he won't, that he'll sell himself short. And he's afraid that he will, and all those graves will be piled around him, all those failures.

He doesn't think about it except in the small, dark hours after he wakes. He's never quite sure how to fall back asleep; multiplication problems, chess patterns, even poetry sometimes will do it. Masturbation does it best, but he always feels guilty about jacking off, like he's erasing deep thoughts and real problems by burying them in fantasies of hands and mouths and warm skin and shoulders. He's never quite sure what he's thinking of, who he wants; it's not Lana. The extent to which it's not Lana is actually its own problem.

Enough of it. Enough.

Lex wakes again at three-thirty and refuses to go back to sleep in order to wake an hour and forty-five minutes later with the same dream. Chloe Sullivan, this time, Clark's sharp-eyed reporter friend. He hadn't realized she'd made that much of an impression on him. Gabe Sullivan's girl, bright and eloquent, fresh-scrubbed features and dazzling Smallville smile. He's watched her blonde head dashed against a concrete wall, again and again, a weird sort of replay, blood and brains flying from the impact.

She hadn't stopped smiling. That was the worst of it; the grisly remnant of her smile.

God, enough. The dreams had killed those closest to him too many times, now they were seeking out from his circle for another remove, a second circumference, and he would not have it.

And why didn't his father ever, ever die? Was that a dream too devoutly to be hoped for, or one too greatly to be feared? Why didn't he ever, ever, ever just die?

Lex stops slamming his fists into the bed. He gets up and dresses in sweatclothes, climbs into his Jaguar. Deadly speeds. Maybe he'll hit something; then he would know if he wants to live or die.

Maybe, Clark thinks, if he just runs. Far enough away, fast enough. How far can he get and still be back in time to help with the morning's chores? Metropolis? Edge City? Chicago?

He's tired of Smallville; he knows every blade of grass, sheaf of wheat, stalk of corn. He knows where the roads get a little twisty downtown and he knows where the bridges go over the lake. He knows Riley Field, sickly and green with meteorites; he knows the school grounds and the factory grounds and the other nooks and crannies that circumscribe Smallville's boring, comforting grid of sameness.

And he knows the things that are not normal. Sean's lake. The graveyards. The hills with mutant animals; the recluses that guard bitter secrets ten miles from town, the mutants that think up new ways to kill themselves in search of money and power. All his fault; all given to him like a birthright. He's got a spaceship, a tablet of incomprehensible symbols, and thousands or millions of potential mutants. He wonders how he can clean up all the mess.

Wonders if that's the dream, the bitter shock that wakes him every night -- he can't save them all. He can't possibly save them all.

It's warm, almost hot; he thinks about sleeping in the loft. Once he gets outside, he's too awake to think about sleeping at all. A sense of something lost lingers from the dream, again. So much to do. So little time. It pushes at him like an engine; he can't think of sleeping at all.

Instead, he just runs. He's headed out along the highway to Metropolis. Highways are kind of cheating, he supposes, but he's got to be back by six a.m.

When he sees the Jaguar, driving almost as fast as he can run, he's somehow not surprised.

And something -- something reckless and unknown, something to do with the dreamlike night -- something makes him stand out on the highway and wait for Lex to hit him.

If it's not real, then he doesn't have any secrets. If it is real ... maybe he's got nothing to lose.

The only thing that flashes through Lex's mind as he squeals on the brakes is not like this.

He's not sure why.

He spins out and hits Clark, but the car's fine, Lex is fine, and now he's got to get out of the car and see the blood, see what's left of Clark, and now he understands the weirdly prescient dreams; he realizes that he moved on to Chloe Sullivan tonight because Clark was going to be dead by morning.

He can't stop his hands from shaking as he tries to unbuckle the seatbelt, reach for the cell phone, go to Clark's body. Maybe he's not dead. At eighty miles an hour, he could be paralyzed or comatose or just broken, everywhere, just blood --

When Clark appears at the Jaguar's window, unbruised, Lex knows what it means to see a ghost.

His hands are gentle ghost hands as he opens the car door, unbuckles Lex, helps him out of the Jag. "We've got to stop meeting like this," he says in a ghost voice. His body is warm and solid and strangely alive, and Lex realizes his own hands are shaking, not with fear, but with rage.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Lex hollers at him, and this at least is something Clark can believe in. "I could have killed you. Jesus, how are you even walking?"

Clark doesn't say anything, just helps Lex out of the car, helps him stand on shaky legs. "Or you could have killed me. Let go, I'm fine. God, Clark. What the fuck is your problem?"

Clark doesn't really have an answer. "It doesn't matter," he hears himself say finally. "It's the dream. Nothing's ever enough. I just wanted to change it. I just need it to stop."

"You're suicidal," Lex breathes, and he is voice is softer, like he's concerned for Clark, not angry. "You're actively suicidal and I am not going to be the vector -- and don't even think about pretending I didn't hit you this time."

"You hit me," Clark said. "You hit me both times. I'm not suicidal."

"'I just need it to stop?'" Lex isn't acting betrayed. He's worried, like he might have to run Clark in to an institution, but he's not betrayed and he's not angry and something quiets in Clark's head, something that has been screaming since the last time Lex hit him with a moving vehicle.

"The dreams," Clark clarifies. "Every night. I can't do it all; I can't make it stop --"

"And there's blood everywhere," Lex says, and they're looking at each other across a nightmare at four-fifteen in the morning. Lex scratches at the back of his neck as if he's being watched; Clark wants to throw up, like he's too close to Riley Field.

"God." Lex comes up to him, really looks and sees his unbroken body, shoves at him as if to prove they're both solid and alive. "What are you? What is this?"

"I don't know," Clark says, "but we've got to make it stop."

They walk together, silently, towards town; Lex knows they're headed in the right direction, but he doesn't know where, exactly, they're going.

"I'm pretty tough," Clark says after a while. "It's pretty hard to hurt me."

"You're invulnerable," Lex corrects him. Eighty miles an hour. His flannel shirt's destroyed.

It explains far too much, really. Lex is angry he didn't see it, that he didn't hold to the truth when he'd known, all along, that Clark was a liar.

"I can be hurt," Clark says. "You've seen me hurt. It just takes special circumstances."

"Why did you lie about it?" Why did you lie *to me,* he wants to ask, but can't. Not quite.

"Lots of reasons," Clark said. "Mainly, I don't even know how to not lie about it. I've never told anybody."

"The rest of it's true, too, then," Lex says, and Clark nods. He walks over to a boulder and picks it up easily, sets it down, doesn't say anything else. Lex's head computes the possibilities, the calculations lightning-fast and just as dispassionate. What he could do, what he could make Clark become, how he could turn this into a thousand opportunities for power, for profit, for possession.

And then Lex realizes something else Clark said. "You've never told anyone? Who else knows?"

"My mom and dad," Clark says. "Kyle, I think. Ryan, most of it. Cassandra knew; Phelan knew. I never told them anything, though."

"Why tell me?"

"Why do we have the same dream every night?" Clark's voice is shaking; it may be with rage. "You said it yourself, Lex. We've got a destiny."

The word, weirdly, almost hurts him. Lex closes his eyes, sees Julian again, pressed against a wall. Chloe Sullivan's rictus grin. "So much blood," he whispers. Never his father. Invisible hands.

"It's never enough," Clark says. "We've got to stop this. Before it starts." He turns to Lex, seems to consider him a moment, picks him up in a fireman's carry. Lex draws breath to protest, starts to kick at him -- like it would do any good. "Just hang on," Clark says, and everything starts to move faster than he's ever moved, so fast he might get sick, except that he's damned if he'll vomit in front of Clark.

They emerge from whatever the hell just happened in front of the Kent's grain silo. "Clark," Lex says -- and he's already tired of saying it -- "what the fuck?"

Clark doesn't bother answering Lex until he unearths the entrance to the storm cellar. "I can run pretty fast, too," he says, knowing it's an understatement, wondering if he can tease Lex after toting him five miles like a hay bale.

Apparently he can, because Lex cracks up -- not just a smile but one of his rare laughs. "Like you're pretty tough, or strong?" he says after he gets his breath, and Clark isn't sure whether Lex has finally lost it until Lex starts shaking his head. He's still amused, still sane, still the only person Clark can think of who could just take this and assimilate it and not break.

"Just like that," he says. Now that he's here, he wonders if he has the guts to go into the storm cellar, to carry this out.

"Why did you tell me?" Lex asks again. "Why me?"

Clark thinks of a thousand reasons, and then decides to give Lex a true one. Maybe if Lex works it out he'll get a different answer.

And Clark kneels down on the ground in front of him. "Every night," Clark answers him, "it ends like this." He draws little lines in the dirt. "Mom's grave. Dad's grave." He draws a circle, a spiral, around his solitary finger. "Chloe. Pete. Lana. Everyone I know in the whole world, everyone I've ever met, people I don't even know yet, people I maybe love." He looks up at Lex, knows Lex already knows how this ends. "You're the only one who doesn't die."

Lex feels a slight chill, an echo of memory, a prescience. "I die someday, Clark."

Clark considers this a long time, plays with small handfuls of dirt in his hands. "I don't think so," he deliberates, looking up at Lex with a startling intensity. "Don't you see it? You're the key."

"And whatever you're about to show me --"

"Well, my parents will kill me. If you don't. I kind of promised that I'd marry anybody I told this to."

"I'd marry you," Lex is serious; he touches his knuckles slightly to Clark's shoulder, realizes Clark's still on his knees in front of him, wonders if that's a different kind of prescience.

"Really." Clark's standing, one fast fluid movement to his feet.

"Seriously," Lex says, "if you need me to make a vow or something --"

"No," Clark says. "It wouldn't be real if you promised before you saw. This is big, Lex. I just have to trust you."

"It's that big?" Lex can't imagine what Clark's got left to hide, but Clark just nods; whatever it is, it's bigger than Clark's being a particularly freakish and fortunate mutant. Clark takes a breath, his hands shaking noticeably, and lifts the door to the storm cellar.

It takes them a few minutes to get down and find the light. Clark moves a tarpaulin, and it takes Lex a while to decide that what he's looking at isn't some strange piece of farm equipment, but rather something incomprehensible, made of unnatural metal and covered in symbols that aren't from any language or culture Lex can name.

It starts to fall into his head, the answers, the completely obvious sense of it, why Clark's hovering near him so defensively, as if Lex might strike out at him, or at the world. "You're not human."

"I don't know," Clark says, and it's clear this is it, this is the extent of his secrets, and Lex wonders with part of his brain how one kid could hold all this in and not go insane. "I don't even know if I was abducted, or if I'm the first wave, or if there's anybody else like me ... I don't know much of anything. This is just where they found me. Near this thing. In the field."

"Riley Field?" Clark's nod puts a cold feeling in Lex's stomach. "When?"

"Twelve years ago. The meteor shower." Clark's got his hands crossed over his chest, his lips pressed tight, like he's physically holding himself together. He indicates the pod with his head; one such meteor.

Lex realizes that Clark's afraid he'll be angry -- that it's somehow Clark's fault his alien forebears dumped him down onto Smallville, that the gravitational pull brought -- whatever -- into Riley Field on one particularly memorable afternoon.

"I wanted you to know," Clark says. "You're the only one who does. I suppose you could probably ruin everything, from here. My family. Some kind of Roswell alien autopsy thing." He's got his arms folded across his chest.

"I could," Lex says, and oh, yes, he could. Get custody of Clark before dawn, with a few phone calls. Figure out what made him tick, how his talents could be used, what secrets of alien technology lay inside this big egg. Clark was his ace in the hole, his trump card; he alone was worth the entire army of Alexander the Great.

And Clark trusted him. "You know I could," Lex says again. "Why trust me with this?"

"It's the least likely thing I could do," Clark says. "I thought it might change things."

One-armed boulders. Speed of light. Practically invulnerable. "Plus you can kill me with your bare hands if I betray you."

"Plus that." Clark would be good at poker, actually. Which should be no surprise.

"What do you want me to do?" Lex asks him.

"Whatever you do next," Clark says. "I think I changed it. I think it's got to be different now."

"Our destiny?"

Clark nods; Lex thinks. He plots ahead, and doesn't like what he sees. "Your hands," he says.


"In my dream. There's these hands; invisible hands. They're never my hands. I can't control them. And they kill. They kill again and again. Sometimes they even kill you." Lex thinks about Clark standing in front of his Jaguar, of Clark willing to kill one or both of them in order to stop the spiral of gravestones. "They're not mine," he says again. "And I don't want them to be yours." He grabs Clark's hands, then. They look human, strong, capable, and uncallused -- which should have been a hint long before now, if Lex had been willing to see it.

"They won't be mine," Clark vows. "I swear, Lex."

"You're not even human," Lex says quietly, and Clark flinches, and it hits Lex full-force -- "you're not even human."

And Clark's eyes narrow a little with a dangerous rage, and he turns away, turns his back on Lex. Lex isn't even a threat to him; Lex isn't even on the radar. "I didn't ask for this, either."

"Did you ever consider that this was the mistake?" Lex says. "That this is the destiny we were avoiding? How can I ignore this, Clark? I knew you were lying, I just didn't have a leg to stand on." Lex runs his hands over the weird smooth surface of the spaceship. Not any metal he's ever seen. "I have to use this," he says. "There's too much here -- I have to use this."

"Then use it." Clark's back is still turned. "Use it, use me. Go ahead."

"You don't mean that."

Clark wheels on him. "Maybe that's the answer. Maybe you take control and then I don't have to --"

"What? Decide? Change things? Help anybody? Bullshit, Clark. Bullshit."

Clark shakes his head. "Tell me what to do with it," he says. "Be in charge. I won't have to do it alone." And Lex realizes that more than the future fact of the graves, Clark fears his rejection -- he fears Lex, the one man standing, will turn him out, leave him alone.

He realizes that he's the guy that Clark is trusting to give him membership in humanity. Which is possibly the most ironic thing he's ever heard.

"I just want to sleep through the night," Clark says. "It's never enough. I can't make it right. I can't be everywhere at once. Thousands die and I save -- a dozen. A hundred."

There's just so much blood.

It has to stop.

"Come here," Lex says, and he grabs Clark's arms, runs his hands up and down them. Impossibly strong. His own private army. "Come here," he says again, although Clark's close enough to touch, and Lex embraces him, feels Clark's hands sliding up his back.

"You need more resources," Lex says. "There isn't time or secrecy or any support in this dream of yours -- it's just you running all over the world stopping things." At Clark's nod, Lex can almost feel the world shift, can almost feel their futures take a different course. "It's not efficient, Clark, you need to know your own limits, you need to explore what your people gave you, you need to know if there's anybody else like you...."

When Clark looks up at him in the dim light, it's a smile unlike any he's ever seen on the boy's beautiful mouth. "If you can find out who the hands are," Clark says, "I can stop them." Unholy vow.

He's seen Clark fight the invisible before, and win. "Clark," Lex says, and he's surprised at the way his voice cracks on the name, "I think we just got married."

Clark stares at him, takes an angel-smooth thumb and runs it over Lex's broken upper lip. It's all Lex can do to hold Clark's gaze.

"Good," Clark hears himself say, and then he's bending his head just slightly to kiss Lex's mouth. He's surprised a little by how badly he wants to do this, how badly he wants to do it right now and how good it is when he does it. "You promise," he says to Lex, checking again. "Partners."

He feels like he's falling again, falling off the bridge, jumping without a chance of flying.

"God," Lex says. "Don't you know -- Clark." Lex can't quite look at him. And Lex's sudden kiss is angry, almost biting, forcing Clark to be just as fierce. "You're just ... everything," he says at last, and then he can look Clark in the eye. "I'm going to use you," he says, and Clark feels a new kind of chill down his spine. "I'm going to use you every way I can think of."

Clark grins at that, and it's all about sex and mouths and skin for a moment. He can think of a lot of ways to be used; he's pretty sure Lex can, too.

But it's more than that. It's a great deal more; it could be everything, forever. "I think things have be different now," Clark says. "I think we changed something."

"For good or ill?" Lex asks him. He's playing with the buttons on the tattered remains of Clark's shirt. "If you're the first wave, Clark --"

"Help me figure it out," Clark says. "Help me find out what I am. Then we'll know. Or we'll know more."

"Why me?" Lex asks again, and Clark knows he has to give Lex an answer he'll accept. He can't quite explain it, but he can try. Lex is his backup plan, his extra brain, his trump card. Lex's brains, his luck, his determination -- Lex can win anything he wants. Clark can clean up all the mess, if he's got Lex backing him up. And it's more than that; Clark knows it's more than that in every way he can think of.

"Lex," he says, kissing his sleek, hairless temple. "God. Everything."

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