TITLE: The Sky Is Empty
DISTRIBUTION: List archives OK, anyone else just ask.
SPOILERS: Set after the events of Heat, vague spoilers up to and including that episode.
SUMMARY: Clark talks to God, but...
FEEDBACK: Has got to be a good thing.
DISCLAIMER: If only, Gough and Millar, The WB and DC comics own all.
DEDICATION: Thanks to Yvette and Ali for their help.
When Clark was nine his mother made brownies in the kitchen so he could take them to Pete's birthday party. Pete was very proud that he was turning nine and Clark was secretly very excited to be going. Pete had said that since Clark was his best friend he didn't really need to bring anything to eat like all the others that had been invited.
Then he'd spent the rest of the day talking about how much he loved it when Clark's mom made brownies.
He mentioned it again when they were ready to leave school and finally Pete had outright asked Clark if he'd get his mother to make some.
The night before the party Clark had stayed up late to help her make them. The kitchen was full of the warm smell of baking and his mom had already told his dad off twice for sticking his finger into the big blue mixing bowl she now clutched tightly to her chest. She stirred the mixture with a big wooden spoon and Clark was trying to think of ways to distract her so that he too, could steal some of the batter. Like his father had.
But Clark was pretty sure if his dad couldn't do it, that he'd have no chance.
Instead he smiled at his mom as she rolled her eyes in his father's general direction. Clark liked seeing the two of them like that. Like they were playing.
Clark wanted to help so when his mother asked him to pass her the oven tray so she could put the brownies on it, he took it out of the oven without thinking and passed it to her.
Her face changed as soon as she touched it with her own hand, crinkled up in pain and shock and the tray fell quickly to the floor. Clark could smell burning and see tears leak out of the corner of his mother's eyes. A slick trail that seemed to bleed down her face. He was still in shock as his dad rushed back into the kitchen and this time he completely ignored the bowl that his mom had been stirring.
Instead his father wrapped his arm around his mother and moved her hand to the sink whilst he turned the faucet on.
There was a faint burning smell and Clark wasn't quite sure where it was coming from, as the brownies hadn't even gone into the oven yet. In fact the tray was still on the floor where his mother had dropped it and when Clark picked it up and put it onto the wooden surface of the table there was a quiet bubbling noise and the smell became even stronger.
His mother sniffled and tried hard not to cry, her hand under the stream of running water. His father's hand was stroking up and down her back in circles.
A few minutes later Clark was finally able to see his mother's hand. It looked red and slightly bruised. Clark wasn't really sure how it had happened but she was grimacing against the pain and Clark could see a welt on her hand from a burn.
When he looked down at his own hands they were smooth and unblemished, slightly flour coated but they weren't burnt like hers.
Clark ran and hid in his loft, curling his legs up in front of him and closed his eyes shut. He'd wanted to believe that if he hid like this nobody would be able to find him.
It didn't take long before his father knelt before him. Whispered words to soothe him, to tell him it wasn't his fault, but Clark couldn't see how it wasn't. *He'd* been the one to pass the tray to her and he wasn't hurt so it had to be his fault.
When he finally went back inside his mother was sitting at the kitchen table, steam rising from a cup sitting before her. She smiled but Clark could see her eyes were puffy too, just like his and she cradled her hand close against her chest. She was trying her best to convince Clark that she was fine but he could still see it, her hand red and slightly blistered.
For the next week or so first thing in the morning and last thing at night his mother would open a jar full with a thick white cream. She rubbed it on her hand and when she wouldn't catch Clark looking he could see her wince slightly in pain. The cream blended into her skin from white to a dull red. Her hand still looked pinched and discoloured, like it had been run under cold water for too long.
No matter what his parents said, Clark still felt guilty for hurting his mother.
When Clark sat with her at night after she'd applied the ointment to her hand, the two of them were surrounded by the thick haze of camphor oil. The smell was everywhere, on her clothes throughout the house and Clark was starting to think he could feel it eating into his skin. Strong smell as she rubbed her burnt hand.
He didn't think it would ever stop but one day she no longer put the cream on her hand. The smell however, seemed to stay for much longer. Clark was sure he could smell it all through the house for weeks. Thick and pungent like an oil slick. It reminded him faintly of when his father would refuel the tractor.
But it reminded him mostly of that look on his mother's face. The hurt as she fought back tears and the guilt he could feel reflected back from his own face.
The summer before last Clark had been helping his father remove the stumps from the old poplar trees.
Rope wrapped around their hands as they tugged the heavy stumps of wood from the ground. When his father removed his glove to wipe the sweat from his brow that dripped into his eyes a quick tug of the rope pulled it through his hands.
A sharp yelp of pain and his father clutched his hand between his legs and grimaced. Clark rushed to make sure he was okay and when his father let him see his hand there was a criss-cross of welts where the rope had pulled and torn his skin.
For days afterwards the house was heavy with the smell of camphor.
Clark's skin doesn't burn, doesn't bubble up and welt when it's exposed to fire. He doesn't feel heat in the same way that anybody else seems to. The only time Clark's ever felt heat against his skin had been the press of flesh, desire of tongue and whisper of rank river water on his lips.
The first day he'd met Lex.
Lex had burnt him. His lips felt like fire as they touched the cool, unmoving skin of Lex. Lissom and supple beneath his own and Lex's mouth felt like a furnace. Stoked with fire that burnt Clark's entire body. Heat melting his insides as he moulded himself more closely.
Everything else faded as unimportant except for the press of heat against his own mouth. Clark almost forgot what he was doing when he felt the first touch of warmth spread through his body.
Almost like he and Lex were doing something so very different. Like Clark wasn't really saving Lex at all, instead it was the other way around and Clark really wanted to be saved.
He really wanted Lex to save him.
He was still thinking about it when Lex's eyes flashed open and he coughed. Thick river water ran out of his mouth like trails of fire. Plumes of heat and Clark instinctively reached his hand to his mouth, he was sure his lips would be burnt and when he finally remembered to breathe, all Clark could smell was camphor.
He can still taste the heat on his lips.
It only makes sense when Clark discovers his new "ability". He still isn't sure what to call these new discoveries without making them sound cheesy. Without sounding like a reject from a comic book or some type of super hero.
He's not surprised though when he discovers his ability to generate heat with rays from his eyes. It makes sense; Clark's used to feeling heat and desire in ways he never used to. Never thought he'd be able to but there are so many things that are new and different since he saved Lex that day.
At the side of a river, mouth wet and hot. His whole body burning.
Clark never wants to hurt anybody again so he makes sure he's able to control it. To not cause another accident like at the Talon. He tries so hard but he still worries what will happen when he's once again alone with Lex.
When Clark saves Lex again, press of his own body to smother the fire on Lex, it makes him feel like he's burning. That instead of putting out the flames that are licking over Lex's body he's instead igniting them. When he shifts he can feel that heat all over himself. He has to look away when Lex looks straight at him, they're so close and Clark almost forgets the way he's positioned.
On top of Lex.
Clark moves, almost too quickly when he finally realises it. His body still feels warm, insulated, not by the fire but by Lex.
Once again Clark feels in desperate need of salvation.
Maybe Lex's body is used to the abuse but Clark's pleased when he finds out Lex is almost unhurt. That he isn't burnt.
He'd been expecting the worst but he's pleased when he walks into Lex's study to see him looking just like normal. Lex smiles when he sees him and stands. Lex smells faintly of citrus and Clark inhales that scent without thinking.
"Lex, I wanted to make sure you were okay."
Lex is smiling at him, shaking his head softly as he circles around his desk. "I told you on the phone I was fine."
His tone is soft and Clark knows he's not mad at him for showing up unannounced. When Lex smiles at him like that Clark can feel a build up of heat that begins in his belly. Tight coils of it that stretch throughout his entire body.
He isn't really thinking and when Lex steps close to him, he reaches out and wraps his hand around the other man's body. Pulls him close and presses his mouth to Lex's.
This time when their lips meet there's no taste of river water. Lex's mouth is hot against his own and when Lex parts his lips and Clark snakes his tongue into his mouth he can feel the heat inside his body building even stronger.
Clark almost whimpers as Lex finally pulls away.
Clark can see Lex licking at his own lips, slow circle of tongue around his mouth and he's staring at Clark. Wide smile taking over and under that, another more hungry look.
Clark's body feels warm and when Lex pulls him close again he feels like he's on fire. A heat that's almost too much but Clark wants it. He couldn't live without it and he pulls Lex close again. The furnace of his body as they mould themselves together burns a hot trail all over Clark's skin; marks him.
Clark does burn; and when he scars, only Lex can see them.
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