Pairings/Characters: Clark/Lex, Martha Kent
Genres: Angst, AU, Challenge, Drama, Historical
Claim: For my 2015 clexmas Spring Fling Bingo Card.
Pattern: Basic Bingo (Floating/A Straight Line/Horizontal)
Prompt Count: (4/5)
Warnings: Mention of World War I atrocities
Summary: The Influenza Pandemic ravages Smallville in the autumn of 1918.
Date Of Completion: June 6, 2015
Date Of Posting: July 2, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC and Warner Brothers do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2016
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: This AU does change Clark’s powers, as in he’s not as powerful as in canon. . I’m hopeful or writing at least one more story in this ‘verse. The series can be found here.
Blot out the sun,
In the trenches,
Trapped in hell.
Sergeant Patrick O’Grady
The Fighting 69th
Lex drove through Smallville, the townsfolk moving like ghosts as they glided in the early September sunshine. The sun was beginning to set and shadows lengthened along the sidewalks. The ghosts wore white masks that protected their noses and mouths. Only their haunted eyes showed in pale faces.
Lex picked up his order outside the drugstore. Several other orders were stacked outside the locked door. As he hurried back to his carriage, he noticed the closed stores that lined Main Street. Leaves swirled as wind kicked up, blowing dust and discarded paper down the street like tumbleweeds in a Western ghost town.
He jumped into his carriage, flicking the whip, and his horse started to move. The clip-clop of the hooves sounded loud in the silent street. Grateful for the lack of traffic, he made excellent time, reaching the countryside as the sun dipped below the mountains.
He passed the front gates of his estate and continued down the dirt road, passing beneath the arch that read Kent Farm in elegant letters. He reached the yellow farmhouse and tied the horse’s reins to the hitching post in front of the house. Patting the horse’s mane, he knocked on the front door. The Kents’ hired man came out from the barn to take care of his horse as storm clouds gathered menacingly above the farm.
A weary Martha Kent answered the door. “Hello, Lex.”
“I’ve come with more medicine.”
“How are they?”
“Jonathan seems to be better. Clark’s still very bad.”
Lex felt a twinge of fear at the news. “May I go up and see him?”
Lex handed the bag to Martha, who gave him a bottle of medicine. She took his coat and he went up the stairs.
It was dark in the hall and Lex carefully made his way to Clark’s bedroom. An oil lamp burned on the nightstand, lending a soft glow to the figure in the bed. Lex drew up a chair next to the bed.
Clark was drenched in sweat with closed eyes. His breathing was raspy as he shivered violently. A trickle of blood came from his nose, which Lex gently wiped away with a tissue. He waited for Clark to wake up. He desperately needed his rest. Lex rocked as he waited.
The Great War was still raging in Europe. Millions had perished and millions more were dying of influenza. Some people whispered fearfully that it was the End of Days, but they had said the same thing eighteen years ago when the meteors had rained down on Smallville, and everyone had survived.
Unbeknownst to child Lex at the time, Clark had arrived in that meteor shower in a rocketship like the one in Georges Melies’ A Trip To The Moon. Clark looked human and his differences seemed to be greater strength than the average eighteen-year-old, and an ability to see much farther than most people. He could jump higher than an Olympic athlete and his eyes were an unearthly green, so he wore glasses to dull their shade.
Wind rattled against the windowpanes and the creak of the rocking chair underscored the labored breathing. Lex thought back to that terrifying day of the meteor shower when he had lost his magnificent red hair forever, and picked up his strange healing abilities.
That healing ability had stood him in good stead during this pandemic. He had suffered through the disease months ago when it hard first hit here in Kansas. And that was the rub, wasn’t it?
He shifted in the chair as he thought of the scientific theories floating around out there. His own standing in the scientific community allowed him to take part in the grapevine. The starting point of the pandemic was speculated to be China, Spain, Boston…or Kansas.
I think it’s the War, with all the dead bodies of humans and horses littering the battlefields in Europe, but the meteor storm and the rocks left behind could be the source, especially now that Clark’s sick. He hardly ever gets sick except for colds. If he’s sick now, maybe the meteor rocks are the source and are affecting him, too.
It was all very confusing and depressing. It was why he had not mentioned this theory to Clark, who would take it to his very generous heart.
Instead he helped Martha with caring for Clark and Jonathan, and made sure the rest of the town was supplied with groceries and medicines. He was perpetually bone-tired, but preferred it to lying abed struggling to breathe. He closed his eyes and drifted into a half-sleep as he rocked.
The voice was rusty from disuse. Lex opened his eyes and saw Clark staring at him feverishly. He leaned forward and put his hand on his friend’s forehead.
“How are you feeling?”
Clark sighed. The sound was laced with pain, and Lex’s heart hurt.
“Well, that’s to be expected.”
Dulled eyes started up at the ceiling. “When’s it going to end, Lex?”
“I don’t know.”
Clark huffed. “Not much of an answer.”
“It’s all I’ve got.”
Clark blew out a painful breath. “Well, despite my unearthly origins, it looks like I can fall prey to human diseases, too.”
Lex gripped the rocker’s arms a little tighter. “And here you thought dodging bullets in the trenches was all you had to worry about.”
Clark grinned weakly. “It was more like shells. Bullets were reserved for No Man’s Land when you went over the top.” He coughed harshly, a dribble of blood escaping his lips. His eyes were haunted by memories.
“Here, take your medicine and get some sleep.”
Lex poured the powder into a glass of water, stirring it quickly with a spoon. Clark made a face but obediently drank it down. He was asleep in minutes.
Lex poured water from the nightstand pitcher into a fresh glass and drank it. As he rocked, his gaze fell on the framed photograph on the dresser. Clark smiled at the photographer in his U.S. Army uniform and Lex was right beside him in his own uniform, an arm around his shoulders.
Lex thought of the chaotic days after America had entered the war in April of 1917. He and Clark had joined, and Lex’s scientific knowledge assured him of a job in Washington, far from the European battlefields. Clark was slated for overseas duty as the Allies desperately needed the fresh American troops after three-and-a-half years of meat grinder warfare.
Lex had not liked Clark in the trenches while he worked in a laboratory in the capital, inventing weapons of war, but the faster he could invent effective weapons, the faster the war would be over and Clark would be home.
He had managed to get over to Europe on a research trip, and that was where the photograph had been taken. He had suffered through a night of bombardment in the trenches and it was all he could do not to kidnap Clark and bring him back to the States with him.
He knew that Clark was performing heroic feats. Word had gotten back to him in his safe laboratory. Feats of strength and speed were saving lives on the Allied side and spearheading successful attacks against the Central Powers. There were medals in the dresser drawer to prove it.
My innocent farmboy. You shouldn’t have been in the middle of all those horrors. No one should have.
He had seen first-hand the terror caused by shells, hearing stories about gas attacks and enemy soldiers employing tanks and flamethrowers. The trenches became chambers of death as poison and fire rained down.
And there were the more mundane problems of trench foot, spoiled rations, flooded trenches, and old-fashioned boredom. Books sent from home were greedily sought along with newspapers and decks of cards. Cigarettes were rolled and tobacco sought for pipes.
Lex had been terrified at their parting that he would never see his beautiful farmboy again. Clark had kissed him in the shadows of a bombed-out farmhouse and promised, “I will return to you.”
Lex looked at the sleeping man in his sickbed. Clark had kept his promise. He had returned to Lex older, wiser, and sadder, with a livid scar along his ribs and a smaller scar down one thigh.
He rocked a little faster and took a carefully-folded letter from his shirt pocket. He untied the purple ribbon and smelled the faint scent of lavender sachet as he opened it.
June 16, 1918
I was heartened by your visit last month. It was good to see someone from home, but especially you.
Thank you for all the news of Ma and Pa and everyone else in Smallville. The work that Chloe and Lois are doing with the Red Cross is admirable. I half-expect to see them over here driving ambulances!
The war seems to grind on endlessly, but I’ve talked to troops from England, France and Belgium. They assured me that our American troops have given them a tremendous boost. After four years of this hell, I can see why.
I stand by my promise, Lex. I will return home to quiet fields and fishing down at the pond and with golden corn rippling in these fields, ripe for harvest. I will return to you.
Lex knew that Clark had written in a restrained manner because of possible nosy censors. He could read between the lines, and that was more than enough.
There were battles like Cantigny and the Ardennes that Clark had fought in, and now he was fighting for his life here in his bedroom at the farm.
Life’s ironies never cease.
He thought the battlefields of Europe were the source of the pandemic. With the thousands of bodies, human and animal, disease was bound to fester. There was too much death around on that continent.
“Oh, sweet Clark, I’ll make sure to get you and Smallville through this.” Lex rubbed his eyes. He looked over at the bed. “So beautiful,” he murmured.
He reached his hand out and lightly touched Clark’s face. The heat from his skin disturbed Lex, but he knew that it wasn’t out-of-the-ordinary. Clark was burning up and might not survive. The young and healthy were dying more often than infants and the elderly, the opposite of the usual pattern.
A strange thought popped into his head. The common cold killed the invading Martians. Poor Clark. Will this disease bring him down? We don’t even know who his people are or where he’s from. Lex stroked Clark’s damp hair. How very H.G. Wells of me.
The world was very much in a science fiction novel. War raged while new weapons terrorized the soldiers and civilians: tanks that clanked over ravaged ground, flamethrowers that made trenches a living hell, airships that rained death down from the sky, and worst of all, grotesque horrors released by chemical weapons into the trenches.
And people wonder why so many soldiers are shell-shocked. He rocked a little faster. We don’t need Martians to kill us off. We’re doing all right ourselves.
Lex knew that life with Clark could very well be a War of the Worlds. He knew it but he wasn’t going to abandon Clark. No matter what, he intended to stick with his beautiful alien.
You survived the Great War. You’re not going to die of some stupid illness. Not on my watch.
Lex curled his hand around Clark’s. It was a blessing to be here in this cozy little farmhouse in the middle of these quiet fields, far from bloody battlefields and choking chemicals.
You’ll be safe, I promise. Lex smiled tenderly. I’ll always love you.
A gentle wind blew in from the fields, rattling the windows of the little farmhouse while the world raged with war and pestilence. Here was a safe haven, come what may, built on love in a world gone mad.