After The End

by Serenade



Notes: Written for the SV Flash Fic Challenge.

Challenge: Clark/Lex. Futurefic. Clark and Lex make up after years of being apart.

Disclaimer: Clark and Lex do not belong to me, alas. I'm only borrowing them.


Lex leaned against the cold metal of the wall, sweat trickling down his forehead. He wiped it away with the back of a hand before it could drip into his eyes. The blinking red light in the corner reminded him that he was being monitored. He raised the gun at the security camera and emptied two rounds into it.

He could hear alarms wailing in the distance, but his entire focus was on the square of light at the far end of the room. Lex dipped into his pocket for the passcard, but his fingers met only cloth. He went rigid. It had been there. Swivelling his gaze around the room, he spotted a white rectangle lying on the floor. Breathe again, yes, that was it. He bent to pick it up, wiping the blood off on his trousers before he straightened.

Lex stepped over the two uniformed bodies sprawled in front of the door and peered through the tiny perspex window. He could see white walls, white tiles, white fluorescent tubing. At the edge of his vision, he could make out a trolley holding bottles of fluid and an array of medical instruments.

Lex swiped the passcard through the reader. It beeped once and the door swung open. Chill air rolled out in a wave. Lex's breath frosted as he stepped inside.

A raised slab of steel dominated the centre of the room. And laid out upon its surface, as though ready for examination--

Oh god.

When Lex was in high school, one of his science textbooks had contained a photograph of a dissected rat, its body splayed open with pins and clamps, its ribs and internal organs exposed. The exacting care with which the tableau was arranged had been both repulsive and mesmerising.

Lex Luthor ripped his gaze away from the slab, turned to one side, and threw up.

After, the first thing he did was to close the staring eyes. Then he released the restraints at wrist and ankle and throat. Glassy green chips of rock were embedded in the steel bands; Lex pried them out with the forceps on the trolley and crushed them beneath the heel of his boot.

Lex tried to smooth the gaping wounds closed, patting the flesh back into place in an attempt to restore some semblance of dignity. No one deserved to die like this, no matter what enmity lay between them. He brushed his fingers gently across the cold forehead.

A hand shot out and clamped around his throat.

Choking, Lex curled his fingers around that hand but could not break its steel grip. "Let go," he gasped. "It's me! It's Lex--"

"I know," said Clark, his voice a scraping thing. "It's been a long time, Lex."

Lex could see the incisions in Clark's belly knitting shut, leaving ridges of flesh where the edges met. Clark looked like a Frankenstein's monster, skin waxy and tinged green, engorged with ropy veins.

"You're a wanted man," Clark said. He coughed several times, blood flecking his lips. "What are you doing here?"

It was hard to even breathe, but Lex managed a crooked smile. "Would you believe I'm here to rescue you?"

Clark stared back at him, eyes still full of their customary suspicion and mistrust. Then he released his grip, thrusting Lex backwards onto the floor. "What do you want?"

Lex moistened his lips. "Just to talk."

"Really? Name one reason I should listen to you."

Lex pushed himself to his feet. "I know where your parents are."


The van was a dirty white, boxy and utilitarian. There was a time Lex wouldn't have been caught dead behind the wheel of a vehicle like this. But it was reliable and anonymous, and that was what served him now.

Clark wore the uniform of the tallest guard, the bloodstains nearly invisible against the navy fabric. Once, Clark would have balked at wearing a dead man's clothes. But Lex wasn't the only one who had changed.

They pulled out of the facility unchallenged, the gate guards diverted to the fire still raging in the northeast section. Clark's absence would not be discovered for a while yet. They still had time.

It was a little after dawn, the grey sky smeared with red at the horizon. The highway stretched before them in an endless ribbon. Clark stared out the window of the passenger seat, eyes distant.

"How are you holding up?" Lex asked, breaking the silence.

"I'm all right." Clark's skin had lost its unnatural pallor, and only the circles etched beneath his eyes were visible symptoms of his ordeal.

"Nothing can kill you, can it?"

"I don't know." A pause. "It doesn't mean I can't be hurt."

Silence fell once more.

"Why did you come for me?" Clark asked.

Lex already had the answer prepared. "'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.' You've seen how those in power betray their promises. We can help each other."

"You want me to join you and your mutant army? Haven't we had this conversation before?"

"They're not an army," Lex said. "They're refugees. But yes, they are my responsibility."

"So you admit responsibility now! After how many people have died?"

"I'm sorry," Lex said. "Is that what you want to hear? I made mistakes. I was too caught up in our feud to listen to reason. It was my fault--the fallout, the mutations, everything. But these people are innocent. They're the victims. They don't deserve to be hunted down like animals."

Clark looked at him in scepticism. "So you're their protector now."

Lex met his gaze unflinchingly. "Someone has to be."

After several long moments, Clark shook his head and laughed. "And I'm the one with a saviour complex?"

Lex didn't join in the laughter, but he let out a slow breath, feeling the tension in his shoulders dissipate.

It was late afternoon when they passed the sign:

WELCOME TO SMALLVILLE.
METEOR CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.

Next to the word POPULATION, there was only a burnt smear.


Lex slammed down on the brakes, jolting the van to a stop. Clark blinked awake, instantly alert, eyes scanning the vicinity. "What's wrong?"

"The bridge," Lex said, still staring through the windscreen. "It's gone."

"What?"

Lex opened the door and hopped out. The road ended abruptly ten feet ahead of him, dropping into empty air. On the far side of the chasm, the road continued. But there was nothing to bridge that impossible gap.

Except that there had been, once upon a time. A boy had stood upon that bridge, brooding on dreams of youth and love. And another boy had crashed his car into him--it had hit, Lex knew that now--gone over the edge, and died.

Died, and been saved. It had been the most important day of Lex's life, even counting the day of the meteor shower. And now there was nothing left to even mark the memory.

Burned bridges. "I get it," Lex muttered to whatever fates might be listening. "No need to hit me over the head with it."

He turned around. Clark was standing next to the van, looking off at where the bridge should be. He recognised it too.

"We'll be taking an unscheduled detour," Lex said, climbing back into the driver's seat. He turned on the ignition, but Clark was suddenly in front of him, leaning his hands on the hood.

"Get out of the van," Clark said.

"What?" Lex blinked at him stupidly.

"Get out, Lex."

Lex sighed and stepped outside again. "We don't have much time, Clark. They'll already have people after us. It won't take them long to realise where we're going."

Suddenly, Clark was standing in front of him, hands on Lex's shoulders. "Can they fly?" he whispered.

Lex's stomach turned over. He looked from Clark to the chasm and back again. "You've got to be joking."

Clark grinned, almost like a kid again. "What's the matter, Lex? Don't you trust me?"

"I don't like flying," Lex managed.

"I won't drop you," Clark said. "I promise."

His arms wrapped around Lex, and then their feet weren't on the ground anymore.


Green. Clark's eyes were green as the river, and Lex was drowning again.


They touched down safely on the other side.

"Told you so," Clark said.


The castle looked as though it had been abandoned for a hundred years--an overgrown ruin where rats scuttled and the wind blasted through empty halls. No one would think to find anything of value here. Any search would turn up nothing--nothing of material value, anyway.

Leaves crunched beneath Lex's feet as he led Clark through the castle garden. Apple trees spread their branches against the colourless sky. Rose brambles twined through the yellow grass and all about the circle of graves.

Clark knelt down in front of two headstones standing side by side. Lex allowed him space, letting his own gaze wander. In spring, apple blossoms would drift down to wreathe the graves, and in summer the roses would bloom.

The old Smallville cemetery no longer existed--it had been dug up, burned, and ploughed under. There had been an epidemic of fear in the early days, and even though it was Metropolis and Gotham and Edge City beneath the clouds of kryptonite dust, somehow Smallville had also been marked as contaminated, its history condemning it.

Perhaps they had had cause to rip open those graves--there were places where the dead had walked, after all. But no one would disturb the rest of those who lay here. Lex would see to that.

Clark rocked back on his heels. "This used to be my nightmare."

"Nightmare?"

"Everyone I knew being dead. All alone, surrounded by graves."

"You're not alone, Clark." Lex placed a hand on Clark's shoulder, unsure how it would be received, but aware of the need to give human comfort. "For what it's worth, I'm still here."

"I know," Clark said. "Isn't that funny? They're all dead. But you're not."

Lex's throat was dry. "It must seem like poor recompense to you."

"I don't know." Clark placed his hand over Lex's and stood. "Maybe it's just destiny."

"My destiny's been nothing but misery and destruction," Lex said. "Can you live with that?"

Clark didn't answer. Instead, he said, "I never thanked you before. For rescuing me."

"You don't have to. You've saved my own life more times than I can remember."

"Yes. We used to be quite a team." A wistful smile drifted across Clark's face. Then he released Lex's hand and gestured. "Come on, let's go."

"Go?" Lex drew down his brows in confusion.

"To meet your mutant army. Isn't that why you came for me?"

"Oh. Right. Of course." Lex fell into step beside Clark as they walked out of the ruins together.

FIN



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