Pairings/Characters: Clark/Lex, Jonathan/Martha, Hank Fritzell, Kelly Andrews
Genres: Angst, Drama, Mystery
Warnings: Child in danger
Summary: Clark and Lex help search for a missing child.
Date Of Completion: December 12, 2014
Date Of Posting: December 25, 2014/January 21, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2484
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: Written for tasabian for the 2014 clexmas Gift Exchange. Prompt: Clark and Lex team up to rescue a third character. Posted at Clexmas with comments received! :)
November had turned to December, and snow had fallen over the bleak countryside. Wind blew over the fields and rippled the marshes and ponds. Clouds scudded across the pewter sky with the promise of more snow.
Clark and Lex tramped through the woods and emerged into the area where the marshes stretched out, the banks clogged with weeds and cat-o’-nine tails. Lex’s long, black coat flapped in the wind and Clark hunched his shoulders under a red-and-white checked lumberjacket. He looked cold, which was unusual for him.
Lex peered across the murky water. “We’ve searched for four hours and not a scrap of cloth, broken branch or footprint to tell us where Kelly Andrews is.”
“No.” Frustration laced the younger man’s voice. “I don’t understand it.”
“Well, sometimes it’s hard to find a missing person, especially a little six-year-old girl.”
“That’s what make it so important that we find her! She’s just a kid, Lex.”
“I know.” Lex felt depression claw at his heart. “It’s not easy when a kid’s involved.”
“No, it isn’t.” Clark’s shoulders slumped.
The kid bleeds for everyone in this world. He’ll burn himself out someday.
But that was one of the reasons Lex was attracted to Clark. True empathy like that was rare in this cold, cynical world.
“All right, let’s look at the facts.” Lex was grateful for the purple scarf around his neck and the matching gloves he wore. The wind was biting-cold. How a six-year-old girl could survive this weather was worrisome.
Clark was obviously thinking the same thing as a blast of cold air made him shiver. His hands were jammed into his jacket pockets. “We have to keep searching.”
“We will.” Lex frowned. “Kelly disappeared at ten o’clock this morning, right?”
“Her mother said she was playing in the backyard in full view of the kitchen window. Mrs. Andrews went to unload some laundry and when she came back, Kelly was gone.”
Clark nodded. “She went to look for her but there was no trace of her. She had seen no one lurking around, though it’s possible Kelly could have been kidnapped.”
“Possibly, but no one on the surrounding farms saw any strange cars. One good thing about living in a small town, strangers are noticed.”
“The sheriff says that no strangers have been noticed in town, either.”
“Yes.” Lex looked out over the landscape. “No footprints in any of the fields we’ve searched, though the snow isn’t fresh.”
“I can’t understand it,” Clark mumbled as he stared down at the ground.
“Oh, just that we should have heard her calling for help if she was around.”
“Hmm, yes, trouble is, she could be anywhere, though I’m surprised that a little sprite like that could cover so much ground.”
Clark smiled faintly. “You don’t know kids that well. They can vanish in the wink of an eye.”
Lex kept studying the area. It chilled him to think of the swampy marsh and how easily it could swallow up its victims. A flock of geese flew overheard, their cries sounding mournful in the silence.
Clark was now surveying the landscape with an intensity that surprised Lex. It was as if he was scanning the countryside with built-in binoculars. The old curiosity concerning Clark reared up but he squelched it. There was no time for that.
A voice hailed them. Lex saw Jonathan walking towards them from a distance of several yards. He was accompanied by fellow farmer Hank Fritzell, a grizzled man in his fifties with graying hair and beard stubble. Wiry and lean, he was a typical rock-solid Midwestern farmer.
“No luck?” Hank asked.
Lex shook his head. Jonathan put a hand on Clark’s shoulder. A silent communication passed between father and son. Lex was long past feeling envy for their closeness. It was just a fact of life that Clark had Jonathan for a father and Lex had Lionel.
Lex and Hank talked about ground covered and Lex thought he heard Clark say, “I can’t hear her,” while Jonathan squeezed his shoulder.
Hank sighed and wiped his brow with a red handkerchief. “Poor Betty, she’s really beside herself. With Arch away to that Grange convention in Chicago, she’s tryin’ to hold it together. My missus and Martha Kent are over there now givin’ her some comfort.”
“Yes, Clark mentioned that.” Lex bit his lip. “It’s been four hours since the girl went missing.”
“Yeah, and it’s a cold day.” Hank sighed. “Well, at least the sheriff’s got the hounds out. Any word from those security fellers of yours?”
“No. That reminds me, I should check the progress.” Lex took out his cell phone and called his head of security. “Braden, anything?” He listened and answered, “All right, call me if you find anything.”
“I take it they found nothin’.”
“You’d be right.” Lex put the phone back in his pocket.
“Clark sure is takin’ this hard.”
Lex looked over at the Kents, still in deep conversation. He wanted to put his arms around Clark and comfort him. Clark would be okay with it, but in front of Jonathan and Hank? Lionel didn’t raise any dummies.
“Okay, Hank, and I will go north toward the Polanski farm. Keep searching,” Jonathan said.
The two men tramped through the marsh, using paths well-known to them.
Lex approached Clark. “I think we ought to go back to the Andrews farm and search again.
Lex put his hand on Clark’s arm. “Hey, we’ll find her.”
“I hope so.”
Clark’s tone of despair bothered Lex more than he liked to admit. Clark was the optimistic one in this relationship. Growing up even in meteor-ravaged Smallville was a walk in the park compared to being raised by Lionel Luthor. He expected Clark to be as bright as sunshine, or at least not be down-in-the-dumps.
Though admittedly this situation doesn’t call for a sunny disposition.
“Hey.” Lex cupped Clark’s chin and lifted his face up. He was struck by the misery in Clark’s large, green eyes. Long, black lashes never failed to entice him. “It’s not all on you, you know.”
Clark’s eyes flickered. Lex could see that he wanted to say something, then changed his mind. Clamping down on his frustration, he waited to see what Clark would say next.
“I just feel that I could do more,” he said softly.
Lex knew that he could not stay angry at Clark for long. He brushed his lips over the other man’s, gratified at Clark kissing him back.
“Okay.” Lex licked his lips as he took a deep breath. The day Clark Kent could not affect him this way was the day he was dead. Simple as that. “Andrews farm. Let’s go.”
They trudged across the snowy fields to the main road. Lex was glad for his sturdy hiking boots, a gift from Clark last Christmas. He grabbed at the dark-purple woollen scarf that Martha had knitted for him, last year’s Christmas gift from her and Jonathan.
They were gifts he treasured far more than all the expensive presents showered upon him by Lionel and corporate executives over the years. His father never personally picked out the gifts. His secretary usually got that dubious honor. The important thing was the gifts were the latest, most costly, most prestigious items that made Lionel look good and up-to-the-minute.
Lex and Clark arrived at the Andrews farm. It had the typical farmhouse and barn, and the yard held the remains of a kitchen garden. Tall grasses edged the bare yard. A light was on in the kitchen.
“All right, let’s check around again,” said Lex.
He and Clark quietly went to work. They searched the yard, looking for any clues at all.
The back door opened and Martha called, “Come in for some hot coffee!”
“Mom, we can’t take the time,” Clark protested.
“Searchers need to refuel or they’re useless,” Martha said firmly.
Clark and Lex went up the steps into the warm kitchen. Lex removed his gloves and gratefully accepted a steaming cup of coffee.
“Where’s Mrs. Andrews?” he asked.
“Upstairs in her room. Hattie’s with her.”
“How’s she doing?” asked Clark.
Martha sighed. “Not well. I take it you boys have been unsuccessful.” Their grim expressions were all the answers she needed. “Jonathan called. He says he’s at the Polanskis with Hank.”
“We met them out by the marsh.” Clark restlessly turned his mug around in his hands. “We’re running out of ideas.”
“No trace? You never heard Kelly calling for help?”
Clark shook his head. He stared down into his mug.
Lex drained his mug and set it on the drainboard after rinsing it out. “May I use the bathroom?”
“Certainly. It’s just down the hall,” Martha replied.
Lex was glad for the opportunity to use the bathroom. He might be a fast-healing meteor mutant, but an iron bladder was not one of his superpowers. He flushed the toilet, washed his hands and headed back to the kitchen.
Martha and Clark were talking quietly by the back door. They looked grim, which was not surprising.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Martha said.
“Thanks, Mom.” Clark smiled sadly.
Lex made a noise and the Kents became aware of his presence. Clark decided a trip to the bathroom was a good idea, too.
Lex pulled on his gloves. “We’ll keep looking until we find her.”
“I know.” Martha smiled. “Once you say you’ll do it, you will.”
Lex felt his cheeks pink with pride. Martha always alleviated his desperate hunger for motherly affection, at least a little bit. He was unaccustomed to unconditional praise.
“We’ll search the yard again. Do you have my cell phone number?”
“Right in my purse.”
Lex was reminded that not everyone could afford cell phones. Clark came back to the kitchen and they headed outside again.
“It’ll start getting dark in a few hours,” Clark said.
“We’d better hurry then.”
They separated to cover more ground. Lex poked around, parting the tall, reedy grass at the edge of the yard. It would have been easy to miss something the first time around.
After twenty minutes of searching, he hit paydirt. I’ve been hanging around these farmers too long. He looked down at the glowing green rock in the middle of the reeds he was holding apart.
“Bingo!” Definitely too long.
“What is it? Did you find her mitten or boot or something?” Clark started to hurry over.
“No, just a plain old meteor rock.”
Lex could swear that Clark looked a little green and he stopped a few yards away. “Be careful, Lex.”
Lex let the reeds go and they snapped back, obscuring the rock from view. “It’s a big one. Do you think that…?”
“I hope not.” Worry creased Clark’s forehead. “She’d be the youngest victim of the meteor rocks.”
“But might be the reason she’s disappeared without a trace.”
“I don’t know…” Clark’ eyes suddenly widened. “Look!”
Lex looked out over the fields and saw a light bouncing around. “A flashlight?”
Lex ran after Clark, who chased the bobbing light. The light seemed to stay just out of reach as they ran pell-mell over the crusty snow but gradually they began to close the distance between them and it. Lex’s mouth dropped open.
“Is that a bubble?”
A large bubble floated away from them, reflecting colors of the rainbow in delicate striations. They kept following it as it led them through the marsh and deep into the woods.
They lost track of it more than once but found it again. Dusk began to fall as the temperature dropped. Lex pulled a wool cap out of his coat pocket and covered his head.
The bubble still shimmered as it if was daylight. It was fragile as it rode the air currents, and Lex feared that it might pop.
Though why should we worry? This crazy bubble might have nothing to do with Kelly.
But somehow Lex knew that it did. Living in Smallville had taught him to accept the bizarre.
They finally came to halt as the bubble stopped, hovering around a large oak tree.
Clark pointed out the hole in the trunk. “Kelly, sweetheart, don’t worry, we’ve found you.” He reached into the tree and was flung back with a crackling sound and a spark of light.
“Clark!” Lex helped him up from the ground. “What happened?”
“Some kind of forcefield.”
“What is this, Star Trek?”
Clark chuckled. “Could be. This is Smallville.”
Lex peered at the tree. “There’s a light in there.”
“Yes.” Clark brushed off his pants. “I think it’s the same energy as the bubbles.”
“Bubbles? There’s only one…”
Lex broke off as he saw dozens of bubbles approaching like silent sentinels. They floated around the tree and the light within the tree grew brighter.
“It’s all right. We won’t harm her,” Clark said.
Lex felt a little silly. “Are you suggesting that these bubbles are sentient?”
“Now who’s going all Star Trek on me, Mr. Spock?” Clark flashed a smile. “Sentient or keyed to Kelly somehow. She’s in there.”
Lex didn’t bother to ask Clark how he knew. For the duration of this search, there was a moratorium on uncomfortable questions.
Clark tried again, getting on his hands and knees and slowly entering the tree. He was too big to fit inside completely and Lex watched warily as the bubbles kept drifting around.
I’m in the middle of a Wham-O commercial. Where’s my jar of bubble formula and my wand?
He was standing in the middle of the woods surrounded by rainbow bubbles while his best friend was trying to become a Keebler Elf. It was typical Smallville married to science fiction or fairytale magic or both.
It seemed like an eternity, but finally Clark backed out of the tree. Kelly was in his arms, surrounded by a giant bubble.
“She’s sleeping.” Clark held the bubble very carefully. “Let’s bring her home.”
As they walked through the woods with their precious burden, Lex remarked, “When we are old and gray, remind me of this night, will you? How it’s not as ordinary as we think, walking through the Enchanted Forest with our magical kid surrounded by rainbow bubbles which may or may not be intelligent?”
Clark laughed, a full-bodied, rich sound that seemed to bounce the bubbles around. Relief had obviously lightened his step and brightened his eyes.
The bubble containing Kelly began to drift upwards. Clark and Lex both lunged for it at the same time, grasping the bubble and lowering it back into Clark’s arms. The colors danced with shimmering delicacy as yellow merged into orange and orange dipped into red until the whole spectrum quivered like raindrops on blades of grass.
Clark leaned in and kissed Lex. When they parted, his eyes were shining like emeralds.
If this was some weird fairytale, Lex was more than pleased with his happy ending.