And the Sailor, Home from the Sea

by Jack



Disclaimer: Slash is parody, unless the various owners of Smallville admit they intend Clark and Lex to be a couple; parody is protected as "fair use" under international copyright law.

Rating: PG-13 (The NC-17 version is still available on SSA; this one is because I love my mother.)

Author's notes: On the off chance anyone isn't familiar, the saying goes: "Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning; red sky at night, sailors' delight."

Beta: I'm a bad Jack and did without. Yes, I know there are logistics problems, though I worked out the worst of them, I think. But come on, this is Smallville fic. So long as my plot holes are smaller than the ones the show's writers get away with, I figure I've done my job. Also, I blame Lex. This story was all his idea.

Feedback: The family requests that new fic be posted in lieu of feedback. If you're constitutionally incapable of writing fiction, send feedback to someone else. Seriously. I have Email Issues.

///

"And the Sailor, Home from the Sea"

The dome of clouds over Metropolis is bathed in scarlet, sunset painting the buildings with ruddy colour so warm they look alive, the long shadows of dusk deeper in the long valleys between blocks of skyscrapers; down on the street, where cars move like lightning bugs and people like ants, it's dark already. *Red sky at night, sailor's delight*. The old adage springs to my mind unbidden, and I hope it's some sort of portent, that this will be one of the rare times we get to spend the whole night in bed together. I'm as content by now just to sleep twined together with him as to make love, but either way I'm always dreading the call for help that may come sooner or later but is always coming.

Is it wrong to hate the people only Superman can save?

My mood has been dark, lately, and I keep telling myself it has nothing to do with the funeral, with seeing her fresh grave beside his well-tended one. Of course I mourn them, they might as well have been my parents, the way I felt about them. I'm too old to take death on the chin like this, though, so it has to be something else. There are plenty of something elses for it to be.

I'm the only one left alive now who knows Clark Kent and Superman inhabit the same body; I'm the only one who's ever known that, despite that, they've never been the same man. The only one left, because Jonathan and Martha Kent must have known. Not that we ever talked about it -- I certainly never brought it up -- but they must have.

They probably believed they'd done the right thing, teaching the boy they'd adopted always, always to lie about the things he was capable of. In a way, they were right: Those abilities have never been abused, as surely they would've been otherwise. No one has ever vivisected Superman, though many have surely wanted to. No one has ever guessed how, or even that Clark Kent could yield the same secrets, and has the added vulnerability of people close to him.

But maybe what did happen was worse.

And if I'm honest with myself -- and I've never been able to afford otherwise -- I share the blame for it. No, I wasn't the one who taught Clark to lie, though his facility for it grew under my tutelage and after my example. If I'd told him the truth, just told him that I knew his secret, instead of insisting he tell me... He could have been a whole man, instead of two fragments that don't fit back together.

Maybe they would have, once; my private penance is wondering how late I could have confessed and still saved him, whether even after the break, when it was still fresh and raw, he still might have healed.

Usually I try not to remember how the break hurt me, too. How I missed so many of the signs of what was really going on because I thought this was just one more thing he chose to keep from me, one more thing he wouldn't trust me with, one more thing he insulted me by acting like I could do anything but know. How I'd gone deep into my most secure lab and stared and stared at the piece of green meteor rock stored there, that day I'd first met "Superman" and felt his cold stranger's gaze from those eyes I knew.

Instead, I think about how I didn't confront him, with the stone or otherwise, because I couldn't risk losing him. I did nothing then, and now we're both condemned to this Tartarus for my inaction. Now... now I know I don't deserve him, but to leave Clark now would break what's left of him, and I can't risk what might result. The world needs Superman almost as much as I need Clark.

It's not all torment, and that helps me convince myself there's not another way left. My Clark smiles easier now, lets himself relax, takes everything less seriously. I should be able to enjoy that, more than I do, because I always hated to see the strain of keeping secrets and the burden of impossible responsibilities weighing on him. I always wanted him to be happy. But without those things he isn't really himself.

A gust of wind cuts through my shirt, blasts my naked head. Full night has fallen on the city, sneaking up on me while I stood here lost in thought. The western horizon is now only the faintest bit brighter than the rest of the sky made indistinct by light pollution and cloud cover. Fleetingly I think I want to see stars tonight, even if it's just the few Metropolis allows to share its landscape, though I shy from considering why.

Disgusted, I turn to go inside, feeling a sudden rush of familiar frustration that my penthouse terrace has turned into a postmodern widow's walk. My hand is on the door, the handle easy to find even as dark as it gets up here above the city lights, my body knowing the motions of this ritual too well. Behind me, I hear a sickeningly familiar noise, the sound of a body striking the flagstones from an indeterminate height.

My sailor, home from the sea.

He's naked, as usual, and unconscious, as always. I worry sometimes what I'll do if he ever comes home in uniform. I can't imagine where he hides it, whether there are dozens stashed ready around the city, the state, the world, or whether it just grows out of his skin like a chameleon moulting in reverse. Hooking my hands under his arms, I drag him inside.

I was always strong, just like I always knew the advantage in not showing that strength; but even I had to work at being strong enough to move Superman's -- Clark's -- dead weight regularly. By now I can almost get him into bed on my own. Starting to strip off my own clothes, I stroke his shoulder, pet his hair back from his slack face. "Clark," I say softly, though I know it'll be minutes yet before he wakes.

By the time his eyelids start to twitch and flutter, my clothes are tucked away neatly, waiting to be laundered, and I'm crouched beside him where he's propped against the bed. "Clark?" I ask again, my voice betraying nothing of the circumstances that arranged us here. "Come on to bed."

His eyes open at last and meet mine, and my lungs strain at his smile. It's a stupid cliche, but I feel like I'm drowning when he looks at me like that, innocent as he never was. From somewhere I find a smile to answer his, if not match it, and I give his cheek a last caress before unfolding to my feet, hand out to help him up. "Come on."

Instead he pushes me over backwards, onto the bed, and crawls up after me, over me. I can see the heat in his eyes as his arms slide under my back, and my eyelids shut against the pricking burn in my own as his lips come down on mine. His kiss is patient and soft and sweet, the opposite of everything I need it to be, but I let him set the mood for this because I can't answer the questions my way would raise.

Too many nights I think too much about how we used to be, how we used sex to hide our anger at each other, to soothe the hurts we inflicted, to pretend there were no secrets; tonight I forget the past, live in the moment as much as I can. Sometimes I can still make love with him with my eyes open, the undiminished beauty of his body enough to distract me from what has been diminished; but not tonight. If he objects to my eyes staying closed, or notices, he never says anything.

Afterwards, as I'm catching my breath, I half-hear him making a crack about the effect of my age on my performance, the age difference that's mattered less every year we've been together. It's an old joke, my being older and all the differences, physical and mental, that's supposed to make, and easy to muster a satiated chuckle for. I think I probably sound happy; if there's moisture trickling down my temples, it's only sweat.

Clark pulls the covers up over us with his free hand before settling it around me, one arm curled under my shoulders, the other over them. Clinging to my self-imposed darkness, I turn my head into his chest, feeling a kiss on the back of my skull before his cheek comes to rest against it. Twining our legs together is a joint effort, an old habit, something we could do in our sleep but never wait to. Wrapping my own arm over his side, palm against his spine, I can almost fool myself that we might wake like this.

When I open my eyes, the dawn is lurid red, our bed cold and empty save for my body curled in on itself.

///



If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Jack

Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?