SEVEN THOUSAND SPRINGS
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. They are the property of the WB/DC/Millar-Gough, etc.
Notes: This is an Alternate Universe story but incorporates some plot from episodes to date. I wrote this as a sort of sequel to 'Hurricane Country.' In that story I had Lex marooned and insane on an island. Read that for some perspective, if you like.
This one is much happier than most of what I've been writing lately. Please read and let me know what you think.
As always, my best regards,
There is a place about seventy miles out from Smallville called the Lost River Sink. Here, a free flowing stream vanishes though a bed of round pebbles into the limestone caliche, leaving behind a sandy swath of mystery.
The Lost River is lined by majestic stands of bald cypress; these trees are common in the American Deep South, but quite rare this far north.
In the summer, the waterway is lined with perennial tubers; elephant ears and cannas; sometimes flowers poke their way through the lush greenery and lazily hang over the banks.
In winter the river never freezes; its waters a constant seventy-four degrees.
"Are we almost there?"
Beyond the sink the sand is there, then more sand. In dry years grasses and wild thorn mask the path and it is easy to forget a rushing river runs forth beneath your feet.
"Just a little further."
About ten miles north of the sink, a sound is heard.
Thunderous gushing heard for the last millennia. The flora present is huge; the sycamores older than this Republic. Tall and proud, these trees root precariously to the stone walls and crevasses.
"My God, Clark. It's amazing."
The caliche gives way, the water reasserts itself and issues out into a broad bowl of cobalt silver.
The seven thousand springs.
I brought him here to forget. I hope. To forget everything. The summer, her, the summer, him, himself. That place, the other me.
To feel that there was something beyond insanity and heat. It's about fifty today, sunny and windy and he's got a heavy jacket on and I hope he's not cold. He's not rubbing his hands.
He has a nervous twitch nowadays. It worries me. The night I first saw him, three nights after I finally had the nerve, two nights after I called him; he had this shake about him, an unsettled vibe, a tic. I'd never seen him look so vulnerable.
Lionel had graciously dispatched the wife, the whore, the traitor.
I'm not cold but something tells me I should be. I want to grab his hand and hold it close to my face and pull him closer like we did last night because he smells warm and moist and I don't shake when he lies next to me.
I'm not crazy but I can't pass for sane anymore either. I have more scars now, larger ones, on the inside where they itch and throb.
He's smiling this way and it's the real smile, not the other one. Please, never the other one again. Summer's over.
I want to become this sound, him, this water. Not thinking I will drown but that I might slip into it. Over it, through it, be swept into a situation I can't. Won't. Control.
"How did you know about this place?"
"My Dad. We used to come out here to camp."
"I see why."
"There really are seven thousand of them, Lex. Isn't that amazing? Seven thousand--"
"You could look at it that way."
"I like to think of it that way, Clark. Seven thousand ways to be free. To break out of the hard rock, the hard life. Seven thousand ways to make yourself known, to be where you want, to fight the hard fight. Seven thousand ways to survive."
It's in the forties now and the sun has set and I am setting up camp. He looks tiny, huddled by the makeshift fire and holding his wiener over it.
He insisted we use Boar's Head frankfurters. I would've been fine with Oscar Mayer. Some things never change.
He is looking down at the water. The swirling, magical torrent, with all the jeweled fountains glistening in the moonlight as they escape the rock. He's looking there and I am looking at him and I want to kiss him.
"Kiss me hard, Clark. Don't let go."
I can't refuse him and never would. Not now. My tongue is there and he licks back and I gently lower myself onto him and-- whoops-- there goes that fancy hot dog.
He's on his back, in the dirt, and I am deeper in his mouth and he's moaning and I can pretend, now, in this moment, about all those raunchy forgettable Metropolis nights, all those dirty hearts, nameless streets.
He's rubbing and scratching my belly and I wish it tickled.
"I love you."
He's never said that before because he didn't need to. I'm not sure I can say it back because what I feel is more than that; yes, it's more than tangible love or need or want. Lex is the only person who makes me feel sincere. Honest. Real.
We kiss for a time and then I am hungry and he's exhausted and we can't do everything tonight or today or here. It has to be right for him. He's been through too much.
The way he tastes and writhes and moves and he's got the hardest piece I have ever touched or worshipped and he makes me growl like a dog and cry like a canary and I do love him and will tell him everyday.
He's eating now. His food messy and loaded with this and that. He's laughing at a joke I don't remember telling and it doesn't matter because he takes his finger and puts it in my mouth and lets me lick off whatever hellish combination of relish and Heinz he has concocted. I look to the moon and it's grimacing in approval and telling me everything's alright.
"Everything's gonna be alright, buddy."
Buddy. No one ever called me that before. Ever. When he says it, I can't breathe and that's a good thing, because I am so damn awed that anyone could want me, love me; have me, as buddy, as friend.
It's amazing to be wanted. It's humbling.
It's late and I am listening to wolves and the soft, fearful tread of deer and sharing food with a friendly raccoon. His mask is quite handsome and he's far too tame. He comes up to my hand and takes the pieces of bread and meat and then does a little dance around the campsite.
It's like he's celebrating with us. For us.
I look over to my sleeping beauty and he's still there, he's still safe. He's so quiet and has lost so much weight.
My furry friend seems to squeak a farewell and scurries off into the brush. I put out the remainder of the fire and join Lex on the pallet.
I trace his right hand with my fingertips and kiss him ever so softly on the forehead and whisper:
"I will always be here. Always. You won't ever have to be hurt again. I promise."
I know not everyone understands. I don't understand much of the last three years. The powers thing, the rock thing, the Krypton thing. It's all too much. Here, with him, by this soothing sound and these trees and nature, it makes sense. Only here.
We should stay. He could afford to buy the ranch next to the state park. My parents would throw a fit though. Eighteen-year-old high school dropout turns nature boy with billionaire lunatic.
It would make great fodder for the news shows and tabloids.
It's morning and I am looking up into his eyes and everything smells of pine and man and earth and I weave my fingers through his hair and he just keeps on locking me into the stare and I wish I could stay there, here, there, for as along as forever.
He kisses me, like always, hard and deep and desperate and I don't want to stop, can't stop and I'm running my hands up and down his stomach now, those long, lean muscles. The hardness, the taut pull, the thin sheet of sweat; that heart, that big huge heart. I trace his arms and his neck and he wants more, needs more, and so do I. But we can wait. We can.
The chorus of rustling leaves and birds making traveling arrangements masks the sound of the water. It is nearly time for them to head south, to exotic Gulf shores or Mexican canyons. They chirp in conversation, packing their nests and families together.
I lie in his arms and we smile to these little travelers as they sail away on the southbound breeze. The leaves follow them.
I think back to other leaves. Long, wet fronds fraught with fear and dark nights. Alone. I try not to go there in my head because then I will see things, hear things. I don't like to frighten Clark. We've both been through enough.
"Think it's too cold for a swim?"
I thought he might be afraid of water once I had heard all that happened. But not him. He's more afraid of his mind, of hurting me. Water's nothing.
We sit up and I want to make him some food, get something solid in his stomach but he's happy and just wants to stare at the water and kiss me.
That's perfectly fine, believe me.
The sun is obscured by wispy trails of mist and although I can't feel it, it can't be warmer than the low forties. I make sure he is bundled up for the short walk down to the pool.
I take his hand and lead him slowly and carefully down the tight, worn path through limestone culverts into the springhead itself. He's giggling behind me, tripping softly over the stones and cypress knees and falling into me. Every time that happens I stop and hold him and kiss him and make sure he's alright. I will not lose him.
The thunder and roar gain momentum as we begin the final descent. There are ferns everywhere. Tiny rivulets of crystal water begin to appear at our feet and Lex is just taking it all in, all this nature, all this beauty. All this peace.
Steam rises from the pool floor.
We reach the final little landing where the park ranger has constructed a wooden bench for observation.
We sit upon the bench side-by-side, hand-in-hand, mouth-on-mouth and take of each other until we are overcome by the sight.
The sun, fully revealed from behind the morning dew, blazes above the torrents. Rainbows and crystalline jets everywhere. Red there, and yellow, and blue, real blue, and green even, and gold, and, of course, purple.
Bathed in a shower of nearly transparent fog.
I hold him close to me.
"Yeah, I think it's too cold to swim."
Here, I hope, we have found some kind of peace. Some kind of something that will let us go back home and deal with all the issues.
"But they sure are beautiful, aren't they?"
"Are there really seven thousand?"
"Imagine if we could just stay here?"
"Do you really love me?"
"Yeah, I do--in at least seven thousand ways."
Of "Seven Thousand Springs"
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