A true friend is someone who would die for you
But will also bring you life.
“Clark?” Lex Luthor called, climbing the steps to the loft. Afternoon sunlight crept in through the bale window and the cracks in the walls. Semi-unpacked boxes littered the barn, the Kents taking their time returning their farm to rights.
No one had been in the house when Lex arrived, but the back door had been open. With the Kent truck gone, Lex assumed Clark was home alone. Clark was whom Lex wanted to see, anyway. The emptiness of the castle had made Lex twitchy and he craved human contact, preferably with someone who wouldn’t stab him in the back the moment it was turned. Clark was one of the too few people who fit that bill – only he wasn’t here.
Lex huffed unnoticeably. He crossed the loft and looked out the bale window. He saw his car parked in the driveway, but no Clark. Perhaps he was out in the fields.
Lex wasn’t usually one who took the extra effort to find a person, but the thought of returning to the castle was unappealing. He descended the steps, went outside, and around the barn. Searching for Clark was also worth the effort, for the reward of company and a relaxed, happy smile that never failed to improve his mood.
Lex rounded the side of the bar and caught sight of Clark immediately. He was out by the storm cellar, standing off against another male whose back was to Lex. Lex tensed, cutting off his greeting at Clark’s hostile stance. He glanced around, looking for a handy weapon, just in case.
“You didn’t succeed last time-,” Clark’s firm voice carried across the cut corn, “-what makes you think you will today?”
A gunshot echoed in the air, causing Lex to jerk his head around as a murder of crows took flight from the field. His heart stopped in his chest when he saw Clark fall backwards to the ground.
Lex felt like he was moving through molasses. His hand closed over the handle of a shovel and he ran towards the shooter, his strides seemingly too slow. The shooter heard Lex and turned. He was just a kid – who raised his weapon and pulled the trigger.
Lex made a sound of vicious victory at the click of an empty chamber and swung the shovel at the dark-haired kid. The rifle flew out of his hand upon impact with his arm, and he cried in pain. Lex didn’t pause. He brought the shove around in a backhand swing, connecting with the kid’s shoulder. The kid cried again, crumpling to the ground and curling in a fetal position for protection.
“Clark!” Lex ran to his fallen friend and dropped to his knees. He tossed the shovel on the ground beside him and pressed his fingers to Clark’s neck. Blood stained the brown-checked flannel stretched over Clark’s chest. “Clark!”
Clark opened his eyes, his body convulsing as he coughed up blood. He scrabbled at Lex’s arm, his voice garbled when he spoke. “No hospt-…nahspt—”
“No hospital,” Lex repeated without protest. He knew what happened to those who were ‘special,’ like Clark, when they went there.
Clark’s lips bubble with blood as he tried to speak again. His glazed eyes went wide suddenly and he shoved Lex aside with surprising strength. The close retort of a gun fired deafened Lex, and he watched in horror as another bullet struck Clark’s chest.
“You bastard!” was Lex’s battle cry as he grabbed the shovel, rose and swung all in one violent move. The shovel connected with the kid’s face, knocking him off his feet with a sickening crunch.
Lex took the precious time to insure the kid was truly unconscious, before dropping the shovel, grabbing the rifle, and holstering it over his shoulder. He returned to Clark’s side. Clark was ashen gray with pulsing green-tinged veins raising his neck, face and hands. Blood coated his mouth and chin, and Lex could only see the whites of Clark’s eyes.
Lex grunted as he hoisted Clark in a fireman’s carry and staggered to the house. His hands left bloody prints on the door and the kitchen table as he laid Clark on it. He swept everything off the table’s surface and straightened Clark’s limp body. He discarded the gun and checked Clark’s pulse and breathing again.
“Fuck.” Lex used his sleeve to wipe the blood from Clark’s mouth. He tilted Clark’s head back and pulled open his mouth. After a swipe of his finger, he pinched Clark’s nose, sealed his lips over Clark’s and returned the blessing given to him two years ago. “Come on, Clark,” he urged between breaths. “Don’t do this to me.”
Clark convulsed abruptly, like he had outside, and Lex turned his friend’s head as he spit up blood. Clark gurgled like he was choking, and Lex didn’t know what to do, other than move Clark fully onto his side. It must’ve done the trick, because Clark spat once more and was able to take shallow breaths. His eyes rolled beneath his eyelids and he went completely limp.
Lex scrubbed his mouth against his shoulder, checked Clark’s breathing, and then tried to unbutton Clark’s flannel. His hands shook and his fingers slipped on the buttons. Ripping shirts open never worked in reality. He was also having trouble drawing his own breath. Where were Martha and Jonathan? He was going to buy them a cell phone – both of them, so he could contact them at any time, day or night or when their son was dying.
“Don’t you dare die,” Lex ordered roughly, getting the last of the buttons undone. He pushed aside the material and swallowed the panic clogging his throat. Clark’s chest was lined with discolored pulsing veins like his face. Blood bloomed from two bullet wounds, one above his right nipple and the other near his collarbone where it met his sternum.
“No hospital,” Lex repeated frenetically to himself. Clark was breathing still, though sluggishly, and he had a pulse. Lex needed to remove the bullets without further damaging Clark internally.
Lex dashed his hand over his eyes, unknowingly painting a copper band of blood across them, to match the smear on his mouth. He forced himself to take three deep breaths – which did nothing to calm him – before walking to the sink. He shed his coat, leaving it where it fell on the floor, pushed up his sleeves, and washed his hands with soap in the kitchen sink. He used a paper towel to dry them, and then grabbed the entire roll and brought it to the table.
Rooting through the kitchen drawers and cabinets unearthed a needle-nosed pliers and a bowl. From the living room, he fetched a needle and thick canvas thread. He grabbed the trash can and moved it close to the table, sterilized the pliers as best he could under the hot water at the sink, and prayed that he was doing the right thing. He wished he could call Martha or Jonathan.
Lex set his jaw, nostrils flaring as he geared himself to help Clark alone. With a wet paper towel, he wiped the blood from Clark’s chest and dried him with another. A third paper towel plugged one of the bullet holes as a temporary stopper, so Clark wouldn’t bleed to death. He picked up the pliers, closed his eyes briefly, and whispered “Don’t take him from me.” Then, he went to work.
The grandfather clock in the hall ticked ominously loud as Lex operated. He had to continuously wipe around the wound, his hands, and the pliers. The pile of discarded paper towels rose in the trashcan. The bullet near Clark’s collarbone was not easy to grasp like it would be on the television, especially lying positioned on his side. Lex never knew if he had the bullet or not because he couldn’t see what he was grabbing, and he had to remove the pliers from the wound repeatedly to check. Plus, he had to make sure Clark continued to breathe.
Success seemed long in arriving, but it did come. Lex stared at the glowing green bullet that dulled the further away he raised it from Clark’s body. Lex had no time or inclination to be curious, and he dropped the bullet into the bowl and moved the bowl to the kitchen island counter.
Lex returned to work, stuffing a clean paper towel in the open wound; he would stitch it after he removed the second bullet. Using the same procedure, he worked to free the bullet from Clark’s body. It seemed to take much longer, but Lex accomplished his task. The glowing bullet went into the bowl with the other one on the counter.
Lex put the pliers in the sink, quickly washed and dried his hands, and went about threading the needle. He cursed in frustration at the needle’s small eye.
“Finally,” he growled, pulling the thread through. He would cut the end after he’d stitched the wound.
Lex set the needle and thread beside Clark, tore a new paper towel, and wiped Clark’s bloody chest. A frown creased his brow. The bulging veins had gone and Clark’s color had returned to normal. He wiped the paper towel across Clark’s pectoral where the bullet wound was, and blinked in shock. “What the…?”
The bullet wound was gone. Lex ran his fingertips over Clark’s skin, finding it smooth and unblemished. Mouth parting in awe, he moved the paper towel that had been plugging the other wound. A swipe of another paper towel revealed perfect skin. It was as if Clark had never been shot.
Lex finished wiping up Clark’s chest and dropped the bloody paper towels (proof the injuries weren’t his imagination) into the trash. He washed his hands again and fetched a wet rag. Questions warred with amazement in his mind, as he rubbed gently at the dried blood on Clark’s face with the rag.
Clark’s obvious lies last spring pointed to the truth that he couldn’t directly tell. Coupling that with the evidence Lex had gathered, and Lex had known that Clark was not an average teenage boy. Now, before his very eyes, Clark had healed from grievous injuries and that meant—
“I did hit you that day,” he said, and fascination turned sour in his stomach. If Clark hadn’t had this self-healing ability, they both would’ve been dead at the river that fateful afternoon. And Lex would’ve never known the best friend he’d ever had in his life.
Clark’s eyelids fluttered before opening fully. His unclouded green eyes focused on Lex immediately. He swallowed audibly, suddenly looking like a boy who’d gotten caught raiding the cookie jar. “Um… hey.”
“Hey,” Lex said, a smile of relief pulling at the corners of his mouth. Questions were pushed aside in his mind. They didn’t really matter anyway. What mattered was that Clark Kent was alive and well, and his friend. “Remind me to buy your parents cell phones, will you?”