The late afternoon sunlight fell through the stained glass windows with an incontestable sense of entitlement, taking on the color afforded by the glass as if shrugging on a warm coat proffered by a loyal family retainer. The reds and purples blossomed linearly across the space of the room due to the rays’ arrogant and thoughtless fulfillment of nature’s laws. They alighted finally, and with a sense of gentle purpose, on a young man’s bald head.
The curvature of his skull was lit up roseate, the bright lightning of a reflection flashing as he leaned back in his seat. The color fell instead upon his features, into the crevices of a frown. He glared down at the information before him, willing it to change, or at least conform to some strain of reality and logic he could recognize.
Alexander Luthor had become accustomed, over the past year and a half, to the strange things that occurred in the small Kansas town he had come to call his home. That he still attempted to call his home. There were, without a doubt, freaks and miracles galore to be found in Smallville. But the strangeness here presented to him, in the form of several emergency reports from outlying holdings of his company, was, for all intents and purposes, unprecedented.
Alexander, or as he had always been known both to himself and to others (as an abbreviation of himself), Lex , mouthed the words of the report. As if that would somehow draw the sense from them: “a herd of cows all subject to sudden-onset albinism?”
The livestock was otherwise untouched and unharmed, and Lex had already dispatched a team of experts to discover the meaning behind this incident, whatever it might be — paint or paranormal. Within the same square mile, a field had been waylaid to by a swarm of locusts.
A single field. After the devastation, the locusts had promptly disappeared.
Nearby, a rain of fish (specifically an even mix of rainbow and steelhead trout) had badly damaged a young crop of grain sorghum.
In the purposefully haunting voices of the Excelsior Academy’s Boys’ Choir, Lex’s classical education prodded at him. A timeless Handel melody and adolescent Hallelujahs unearthed memories in the same way cannons unearthed the cold bodies of runaway boys from the bottom of a deep river.
The bloated and macabrely beautiful corpse of one night arose — only several weeks after Julian’s death — one night which Lex had spent hidden in the school’s chapel, turning to the one place from which he had never thought to seek comfort: the Holy Father.
Eternally and blasphemously falling short of the father who still walked earthbound.
Lex, a shivering child, huddled in a second-row pew. The seemingly mile-high figure of the Lamb hung above him; wooden and gilded face contorted in sorrow and pain in the stained moonlight tumbling unapologetically through the glass.
The man who, Lex had always felt, embodied nothing more and nothing less than the Son — betrayed, abandoned, and, most of all, forsaken by His Father.
During the long vigil of that night, Lex had found solace in the Book of Revelation. He allowed his imagination to wander far from his current miseries to a world of many-eyed, many-winged beasts and terrifying horsemen. It was not so very different from the fantastic stories found between the colorful pages of Warrior Angel , his chosen fantasy world.
Tendrils of memory snaked across Lex Luthor’s mind, glinting before his eyes briefly like dust particles caught in the inevitability of light, filtered through colors created by human craft. Signs of darkness soon to come, of a fiery setting followed by a long silence.
A crescendo and a flash which preceded an eternal stillness.
Lex (so rarely Alexander) leaned back further in his chair. The red light spilled into his lap and onto the trembling hand that reached out to slam shut the dark casket of his laptop.
These were not signs.
These were Seals.
Dean Winchester stared down at the radio deck, his features twisted into a look of indignant horror.
The sounds of an intoxicated string-instrument, over which a male vocalist warbled earnestly, filled the hallowed space of his Impala.
“Is that Billy Ray Cyrus? Where the hell are we?”
Sam gave a sleepy grunt and sat up, working the stiffness out of his shoulders and tucking rampant hair behind his ears. “I’d say Hell,” he looked around, “but I don’t recall there being this much corn…”
Dean put a stop to the warbling with one angry and disappointed turn of the knob. He squinted out at the sunny world ahead, the edges of his mouth dipping down with what appeared to be a touch of disgust for the wide blue sky and tall stalks on either side of the dirt road. “You getting Kostner vibes?”
“As in, any minute now I’m gonna splatter Babe Ruth across the windshield.”
“Nah, I’m getting more Children of the Corn .” Sam reached up to lower his sun-guard against the glare of the afternoon, wincing. His mouth echoed the bend of his brother’s frown, but was suffused with more pain than frustration and intent. Dean watched this grimace out of the corner of his eye, seeming to note its every stage and feature.
“You feeling okay?”
Sam glanced over at him, one eyebrow rising slightly and the edge of the grimace turning up into the broken border of a smile. “I could probably use some coffee.”
Dean nodded bleakly. The grim line of his lips attempted to return his brother’s gesture and raised the corners of his mouth, belying the desperation and disapproval that crackled at the edges of his jaw and the creased corners of his eyes.
“We’ll stop somewhere in town,” he muttered, and turned back to glare out at the road, “you know, if we ever find the town…!”
The morning at the Talon had been surprisingly busy, and despite the fact that managers traditionally were not actually allowed breaks, Lana Lang took a moment to hide at a corner of the counter and breathe in a marginal fare of respite.
The afternoon rush was dying down and there were still a few hours till the inevitable town-wide caffeine crash at five PM — restocking could wait a few precious and peaceful moments.
The little bell above the door rang, informing the world at large that yet more locals had come to patronize the Talon that day; but when Lana looked up to greet them with the last of her energy and good will — she realized very quickly that these were not locals.
Nothing local about them.
Well, that wasn’t entirely true; there was something vaguely corn-fed and Kansasy about the two men who walked through the door. The taller one who followed behind, strings of dark hair hanging before a pale and pinched face, had a languidness to his movements that reminded Lana of Lex, or of the rare visitor the town had from Metropolis.
This observation was compounded by the complexity of his coffee order.
The relatively smaller man — they were both well above six feet — blended better with the men of Smallville, his hair light and cropped short. His face was handsomely creased and his shoulders hung heavy with either debt or long-borne anger.
Their eyes met as he placed his order in a gruff voice, and a flash of green forced Lana’s gaze downwards, heat climbing up the sides of her neck. “I’ll get that right to you, please have a seat.”
In a similar and almost synchronized and bandy-legged gait, the two found their way over to a corner table, where the taller of the pair immediately produced a laptop, while the other gazed about him at the Talon’s current clientele. Lana hurriedly turned her attention to the espresso machine, trying to ignore the tremors of premonition that made their way up her spine.
“So get this,” Sam began, clearing his throat and willing the pounding in his head to ebb. “There have been apocalypse signs in these three areas,” he turned the screen of his laptop towards Dean and indicated spaces on the map displayed there, “but weird crap has been happening in this town for years . I mean, I don’t know how this fell under our radar.” He swiveled the computer back towards him and began typing, widening his search parameters.
“What kind of weird crap?”
“Skinwalkers, spontaneous combustion, some kid had superpowers for a while after getting struck by lightning — there’s a lot of stuff about a meteor that hit the town twelve years ago.”
“Meteor?” Dean blinked at his brother, hands curling tiredly around one of the coffee shop’s quaintly stylized mugs. “We talking space rocks?” Both eyebrows rose and Dean tucked his chin slightly, the lapels of his faded green jacket brushing against the edges of his jaw. “They’re making people explode now?”
“I just report the news…” Sam muttered, taking a long sip of his coffee, eyes shut tight for a space longer than they should have been.
Dean looked away, once again taking stock of the locals surrounding. “Weird crap goes down in Hickville USA.”
“We actually still prefer Smallville.”
Sam looked up to see the sweet, dark-haired teenage waitress from the counter. She gave them both a slightly strained smile. “Here’s your pie.”
She set the plate down in front of Dean, brimming with “Mrs. Kent’s finest organic boysenberry.”
“So, have you ever noticed strange things happening around town?” Sam asked her, managing, despite the pain in his head and the nausea crinkling the edges of his mouth and sallowing his cheeks, to smile at the girl.
She smiled back, long eyes hooded and doll-like lips puckering. “I’m probably not the person you want for this discussion.” She glanced past them towards the door of the cafe, where another teenage girl had just entered. Blonde hair bounced above her shoulders and a large messenger bag rocked against her hip.
She waved at their waitress, then bustled over as the dark haired girl indicated both Sam and Dean with an only slightly mocking sweep of her arm. “Hey Chloe, these gentlemen would like to know about the weird crap that goes down here in Hickville, USA.”
The blonde girl, Chloe, let her smile twist into a wry grin. She shifted her weight onto one leg, looking from one Winchester to the other. “Well, that is my area of expertise… you boys from the Prophet?”
Dean’s shoulders stiffened slightly, and Sam’s eyebrows shot up, eyes widening and mouth contracting to a small confused O. “Th-the prophet-? We-?” he swallowed, one hand fisting over the table, “how-?”
“Which prophet?” Dean asked very clearly, the growl in his voice all but setting the silverware in the room to shuddering. “What was his name?”
Chloe raised one dawny eyebrow, tilting her head to the side and giving Dean a long look. “The Metropolis Daily Prophet? O... kay … where are you boys from?”
The brothers took a moment — Sam smiled down at his hands unfisting, a faraway look in his eyes. Dean cleared his throat, lifting his chin and giving Chloe a strained smile. “We’re not from Metropolis.”
“I’m Agent Sambora, this is Agent Panozzo.” Sam pulled a badge out of the inner pocket of his jacket, and Chloe’s eyes suddenly went very wide, the smile dropping from her mouth and her shoulders slumping.
“FBI?” she asked in a hushed voice, looking from one to the other of them and then back at her waitress friend, who also no longer appeared amused by the situation.
“Why don’t you take a seat, Chloe.”
Clark Kent turned up the volume of his headphones, loosening his shoulders in preparation for some serious fence-building, savoring the last of the day’s sunshine on the back of his neck. The summer was passing faster than ever before; September and the following school year rearing their heads above the horizon, all but eclipsing the blue canopy of the sky and the wisps of cloud that trailed across it. Clark shut his eyes and breathed deeply, taking a moment to savor the time that still remained, the music that filled his mind and body, the sense of freedom that made him feel like he could rise right off his feet and fly.
If he had turned around, or allowed any of his inhumanely heightened senses to peruse the area surrounding, he would have taken note of the thin trail of black smoke snaking across the otherwise unsullied blue sky.
The air seemed to condense as the smoke neared the boy. The colors brightened, sounds became sharp, reality shook to its foundations as the blackness curled itself around Clark Kent’s peaceful features and strained to fill his mouth and nostrils.
Clark’s eyes snapped open and his entire body jerked away so fast he left a blurred image of himself in the air for the fraction of a second. The black smoke shuddered, convulsing in the naked air, as the farm boy — now out of reach — stared at it in confusion. His chest rose and fell with frightened breaths beneath the blue cotton of his tee-shirt, one earbud dropped and trailing across his shoulder.
The black smoke turned on itself and Clark — acting upon instinct born of more panic than sense — bolted back into the house.
The screen door slammed behind him, and a variety of his mother’s baking implements flew off the table in a floury whirlwind.
“Clark!” Martha Kent admonished automatically, before she’d had a moment to take in the look of terror on her son’s face. Instantly, her frame both softened and steeled, exuding sympathy towards her enormous six foot four baby and determination to fight off anything that could so frighten her indestructible boy.
“What is it? Was it Jor-El?” She immediately placed her body between Clark and the door.
Clark shook his head slightly, blue eyes wide, cheeks gone pale. “No, it was… it was like some kind of smoke, black smoke, and it… it tried to…”
“It tried to what , sweetheart?”
“Take me,” he gasped slightly, still watching the door warily.
He reached up distractedly to remove both ear-buds and stuffed them in his pocket shakily. “It was like it was trying to take over my mind , hollow me out and put something else there instead.” Clark finally looked down at his mother’s face, and had to bite back a sudden and familiar onset of guilt.
She looked concerned, her brow furrowed and her eyes wide and bright. “We should call your father,” she began, then cut off as a gentle knock sounded behind them against the doorframe.
“Is everything alright?”
Lex Luthor, resplendent in a cream egyptian cotton button-down and a light jacket folded over his arm, stood peering into the Kents’ kitchen from the doorstep. He was waiting as ever to be invited in, concern shining in his face even brighter than the late afternoon sun off his bald head.
“Oh, hello Lex,” Martha turned to face him, managing a nervous smile. “Come in.”
Clark had straightened, stretching out to his considerable height and trying his best to put the previous fearful moments out of his mind. “Hey, Lex.”
The young Luthor stepped into the kitchen, looking from frightened mother to son.
“Mrs. Kent, Clark… did something happen? You both look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He raised one hand very slightly, as if craving to place it on Clark’s shoulder, but promptly the hand curled into a fist and he lowered it back to his side.
“Maybe it was a ghost,” Clark said, glancing past Lex and back towards the door. “I’ve never seen anything like it before…”
“I was out in the field when this—” Clark cut off suddenly as the sound of a powerful motor rocketed down the lane towards the house.
It wasn’t the tumbling sound of his Dad’s truck or the smooth hum of Lex’s Porsche — there was an unfamiliar rumble to it that set all three inhabitants of the kitchen on edge. Martha moved towards the door and looked out through the screen.
“It’s two men in suits,” she muttered, “I think they might be police…”
“Agent Panozzo, Agent Sambora,” the boys flashed their badges, “Mr. Luthor, if we could have a moment of your time—”
“What are you doing here?” the bald young man asked, his voice ringing softly with controlled anger, glaring at both Winchesters through the screen door.
“We have a few questions—”
“That couldn’t wait for me to get back to my office?”
Dean squared his shoulders, leaning forward menacingly. “If you’d rather discuss this over at county lock-up—”
“Careful, Agent,” Luthor smiled, one hand reaching up to worry the top button of his shirt, “what could you possibly arrest me for, I wonder. And why would you feel the need to come all the way out to the Kent Farm to do it?”
“Your office said you were here,” Sam sighed. “We’ll be happy to follow you back to your—”
“No, please, come in, agents.” An attractive older woman, presumably Mrs. Kent, moved past Luthor to open the screen door and usher them into the house. “Can I get you anything? Coffee, lemonade? I’ve got a fresh pie right out of the oven.”
Dean smiled despite himself and took a long appreciative sniff of the air. “Dutch apple?”
“There’s fresh vanilla ice cream in the crisper.”
Dean’s smile turned into a grin and he pointedly ignored the look Sam was giving him — its point being something along the lines of a coronary bypass and type-two diabetes.
“What are you doing in Smallville, agents?” asked Mrs. Kent’s teenage son, standing up from his slump near the breakfast bar and moving over to help his mother retrieve plates from the cupboard.
“Just following up on some interesting news articles.” Sam smiled at the boy and followed Mrs. Kent’s invitation to sit down at the kitchen table across from Luthor.
Dean remained standing, hands deep in his pockets, looking down at the young bald businessman intently.
“That a white supremacy thing or you just follically challenged?” He motioned towards Luthor’s skull.
“No, actually,” Luthor said, his voice still deceptively calm, “I lost my hair when a meteor hit this town twelve years ago.”
Dean blinked at him. “Space rocks make people bald, now?”
“Unless you’ve come all this way to discuss my personal appearance—”
“Forgive my partner, Mr. Luthor,” Sam cleared his throat, “bad memories from an old Klan case. Could you, uh, tell us, perhaps, why most of the people in this town seem to blame you for the strange things that happen here?”
“They don’t blame Lex,” the Kent boy spoke up again, handing Dean a piled plate of pie and melting ice cream, “they blame his company. His dad’s company. Everyone knows none of this is Lex’s fault—”
“It’s okay, Clark.” Luthor placed a hand on the arm of his young defender.
The boy’s earnest blue eyes shot over to his collected friend, before he retreated again to the other side of the kitchen.
Luthor turned back to face his accusers. “The reason people in this town blame me —” he glanced at Clark, “or my company, as the case may be — is that every community needs an outside force to oppose, and through opposing it find themselves unified. I am nothing more than a catalyst for local synthesis. I provide that warm fuzzy feeling of being an Us , by supplying a Them .”
“Well, you certainly do enjoy the sound of your own voice,” Dean smiled, the edges of his eyes crinkling. “Could you tell us—”
“Just a moment, agents, excuse me.” Luthor held up one well-manicured hand while the other reached into his pocket, pulling out a slick black phone which still vibrated slightly in his hand. With one deft movement of his thumb, Luthor began perusing whatever communication it had announced the arrival of.
As he read, Luthor’s eyes narrowed, glancing up once or twice at each of the Winchesters, a wide smile spreading over his face that Dean felt was actually more akin to a smirk. “Ah. Yes. Agents, would you mind following me outside? I feel we’ve put Clark and Mrs. Kent to enough trouble as it is without making their kitchen your investigation headquarters.”
Sam took in the suddenly more fluid body language of the man that sat before him and nodded immediately. “Absolutely, Mr. Luthor,” he stood up, “after you.”
Dean stared down morosely at the three quarters of a slice of pie still left uneaten on his plate. But then got to his feet as well, politely bidding farewell to the Kents before following his brother and the man in the expensive shirt out into the sunset-lit garden.
“After all,” Luthor said as he began leading the two men towards the seclusion of the barn, “we’re talking about the end of the world.”
“I’ll be right back,” Clark told his mother, and slipped out the back door.
He made his roundabout way to the barn where he’d seen Lex lead the two FBI agents. Clark knelt behind the dilapidated old tractor which stood outside the barn and breathed in deeply. He concentrated on allowing his sight to travel through the tractor and the wall of the barn; once he could see the figures of Lex and the others, he allowed his super-hearing to do the rest.
“So, I take it this isn’t you boys’ first Apocalypse.” Lex was smiling at the two agents, hands in his pockets, shoulders laid back, chin high — his usual stance when confronting something dangerous with little or nothing up his sleeve.
Agent Panozzo (the one whose tie had come askew and who still had a few traces of vanilla ice cream around his mouth) took a step towards Lex. Clark readied himself to pounce between them — but the agent simply leaned in closer to the young Luthor and spoke very clearly.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Lex rocked on the balls of his feet, smiling down at Agent Panozzo’s bedraggled tie. “Calm yourself, Dean , don’t want that legendary temper to get the better of you.” He looked up at them both. “You are Dean, right? The eldest of the famous Winchester brothers?”
“How do you know who we are?” The taller of the men asked, his mouth gone tight and hands fisting at his sides.
Once again, Clark had to quell the urge to move protectively in front of his friend.
Lex pulled out his phone again. “Well, Sam ,” he looked up to confirm the name with a little smile, “I’ve had a team researching you two since last night. Once I realized the Apocalypse had come to Smallville, I figured — who better to consult than someone who’s already gone through it.” He looked down at the small glowing screen. “As I’m sure you know, you two are quite famous in certain circles.”
“Is that right…” the one named Dean muttered, his jaw working, glaring down at the dirt floor of the barn. His eyes widened and his adam’s apple bobbed, however, when Lex said:
“Yes, apparently there’s even a series of books written about you two. I’m downloading them as we speak.”
Sam made a small choked sound and there was a possible whimper from Dean. “Those are…” Sam began, then cleared his throat, “you really don’t need to bother with those.”
Lex gave a soft laugh. “I’ll be the judge of that.”
He slipped the phone back into his pocket and began rolling up his sleeve, presenting his forearm, palm up, to Sam and Dean Winchester. “I’ve done my research, and I want you both to trust me…” He looked up and smiled, the hardness never leaving his eyes for a moment. “Let’s start with the holy water, shall we?”
Sam and Dean glanced at each other, and then Dean reached for a flask at his hip.
Clark watched as Lex subjected himself to a series of strange tests at the hands of the Winchesters, at one point even allowing them to make a shallow cut on his arm with a silver knife. Clark watched Lex grimace slightly in pain, then fish a silk and monogrammed handkerchief out of his pocket to staunch the blood. “Well, now that’s done…”
“Oh, we’re not done,” said Dean, clearly the more aggressive of the brothers. “Why don’t you tell us your angle on this, Luthor? What makes you so keen to throw your hat in the big holy rumble against Heaven and Hell?”
Lex sighed and straightened, meeting Dean’s gaze head on.
“You two have had a pretty good demonstration of what people think of me in this town,” he said, “but that doesn’t change the fact that this is my home. What I want to know is,” he took a deep breath, “ why the apocalypse has come to Smallville. Something tells me it isn’t for the fishing…”
Lex checked the cut under his handkerchief, rolled the sleeve back down and began shrugging on his jacket. He continued, not making eye contact with either of the larger men.
“I’ve protected this place and these people from any number of monsters over the past few years, most especially my own father. Something tells me Michael and Lucifer may not quite live up to my expectations.”
Almost quicker than Clark could follow, Dean had stepped forward and twisted his fist into the lapel of Lex’s jacket. His fingers ripped one of the delicate buttons right off the collar of Lex’s expensive shirt, pulling their faces uncomfortably close.
“Now, you don’t really strike me as the protective type, so let me ask again,” Dean growled. “ What’s. Your. Angle ?”
“Let him go!” Clark barked from the entrance to the barn — he’d moved even faster than he’d realized.
The three figures turned to face him, the tips of Lex’s leather shoes trailing in the dust.
“Clark!” Lex gave a laugh that may very well have been a cough, grinning at him past Dean’s fist, “I’d like you to meet the Winchester brothers. They’re here to help .”
The sun finally set over the Kent Farm, the stars beading out of the deep blue and hanging low over Clark’s loft. Sam stood fiddling idly with the telescope, Dean paced, and Lex sat comfortably on the couch, trying to explain to Clark how they meant to save the world.
“So it’s two angels fighting, and they want to use your bodies to do it?” Clark looked up at where Dean had paused by the railing; he’d already taken off his suit jacket and the tie clung on only by the very last vestiges of its sanity.
Dean gave Clark a tight little smile. “Yeah, kid, that’s pretty much it.”
“But you threw them both into some kind of cage,” Clark continued, “what makes you think they’ve broken out of it?”
“Let’s just say,” behind them there sounded a raspy voice with a saucy London lilt, “I can feel it in my wibbly bits.”
A small stout man in a dark suit stood in the corner of the loft. He raised one hand and gave a fluttering of fingers in greeting. “Though the bloody herd of white cows and the rain of trout might be a bit of a hint as well.” He grinned, teeth flashing in his dark beard. “Hello, boys.”
Clark saw Dean’s shoulders tense, and Sam nearly knocked over the telescope.
Lex got to his feet, the light from the hanging lamps trailed lovingly across his skull and face to rest finally in his blue eyes. “You’re Crowley, aren’t you? King of Hell?”
Crowley’s eyes narrowed slightly as his grin widened, one hand slowly twirling what Clark identified as one of his mother’s white tulips from the front yard. “You’re Lillian’s boy, aren’t you?”
“You’re serious?” Sam stepped forward. “Michael and Lucifer are gone?”
“That would appear to be the case.” Crowley ambled slowly towards the back of the couch where Clark sat. The boy hurriedly stood up and went over to stand next to Lex.
Crowley’s eyes widened and he gave a little crowing laugh. “Blow me over, you finally found a friend for Moose!” he chuckled up at Clark. “Moosette, I should get you a little pink bow so I’ll be able to tell you lovelies apart.”
“Crowley,” Dean growled warningly.
The little man heaved a heavy sigh. “Yes, yes, darling, to business, I know; all slap and no tickle, you are.” Crowley perched himself on the armrest of the couch, ignoring Dean’s very-much-lack of amusement. “Mikey and Lucy have flown the cage and odds are they’re in the market for more grade-A Winchester Man-Flesh.”
“So what the hell are they doing here in Smallville?” Sam asked the obvious question. “We were working a case up in Oregon, why not come find us there?”
“Dunno,. Crowley allowed his gaze to wander lazily back in Clark’s direction. “Maybe there’s something here they like? I hear the fishing’s excellent.”
“How many have you lost?” Dean asked, arms crossed over his chest and jaw set.
Crowley gave Dean a withering look. “To Lucifer? …Less than you’d expect, actually — I guess a bit of the shine’s off that penny.”
“You’re a demon?”
It took a moment for everyone, including Clark, to realize that he was the one who had spoken. His voice sounded smaller and younger than logic dictated.
Deep dimples appeared in the scruff on Crowley’s cheeks as he pursed his lips, eyes wide. “I think I may want to keep this one as a pet,” he said.
“He’s a demon,” Lex answered very softly, watching the little man as if he were a coiled snake ready to pounce, “but he isn’t the Devil.”
“Oh no,” Crowley chuckled, getting to his feet in one languid movement and still twirling the tulip between his fingers, “nothing so tawdry.”
He glanced back at the Winchesters. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, or if there’s any bit I really oughtn’t miss.” He reached out and handed the tulip to Clark, who took it dazedly.
The demon shot Lex one last grin before disappearing. “I’ll send your love along to your mum, shall I?”
Later that night, Jonathan Kent arrived home after the long drive from Metropolis to find his wife and son seated at the kitchen table. Martha’s face was ashen, and Clark’s had taken on a new light and complexity.
The young Kent’s gaze was turned inward, his eyes darting back and forth across the table. His mouth quirked up into a strange smile. His breath hitched and erratic.
“John,” Martha stood once he walked through the door, and Clark looked up.
“Hey Dad,” he said, his voice far-away and hazy, “how was Metropolis?”
“What’s happened?” John barked, one arm snaking around Martha’s waist and pulling her close. “Was it the Luthors? Jor-El?”
“Not exactly…” Martha began.
“Angels and demons,” Clark breathed, looking at neither of his parents, staring down at his hands.
Hands that could stop bullets. Punch through cement walls. Crush diamonds into powder.
“Dad... I think I’m going to get a chance to fight the Devil.”
The black smoke coiled desperately past the window shutters, almost liquid-like, seeping down the wall towards the floor.
This went unseen by Chloe Sullivan, working late at the Torch as always. She swallowed down the last cold and sticky-sweet dregs of her mocha, wincing at the taste but willing the caffeine into her system as quickly as possible.
The black smoke trickled across the floor, pooling for a moment below the desk, around a pair of delicately sandaled feet, toenails painted a bright turquoise. Blackness oozed up between Chloe’s toes, wrapping round her ankle and climbing steadily up one smooth leg, past hips in their fashionable skirt—
Chloe’s fingers stopped their typing. Sudden terror widened her eyes and she pushed herself back from the desk. Staring down at the darkness trickling its way up her body—
The first few notes of a strangled scream sounded muffled out in the abandoned hallway, as if something thick and liquid filled the screamer’s mouth almost to the point of suffocation.
Dean Winchester let one eye flutter open dejectedly. He glared up at the figure standing over what was, without a doubt, the most comfortable bed in the full unabridged history of Dean Winchester’s life.
“Dean, I have something very important to tell you.” The angel stood stiff as always, leaning very slightly over the bed.
Dean watched him one-eyed for a few moments, then gave a heavy sigh. “Yeah,” he levered himself up on his elbows and then onto his side, squinting up at Castiel. “I know, Tweety Bird and Chickenhawk have flown the coop. Crowley filled us in.”
He sat up, pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. Lightly freckled shoulders shuddered with a latent yawn. “Damn, that must have been the best sleep I’ve had in… ever .”
Castiel straightened, looking around the room — king sized bed, white curtains, deep carpet — in confusion. “Why are you sleeping in a castle?”
Dean chuckled hoarsely. “That,” he began to climb out of the bed — waited for Castiel to move out of the way for exactly two seconds, then sighed and got out on the other side — “is a long story.”
Castiel watched as Dean leaned back, stretching with his arms over his head. Then the angel returned to scrutinizing the room. “There is something else I need to tell you. Where’s Sam?”
Dean sighed and reached for the shirt that hung over the back of a large plush chair. He shrugged into it, rolling the thin fabric down over his midriff. “Next room over. What is it?”
Castiel glanced back at him again, his shoulders loosening almost imperceptibly. “Haven’t you wondered why Michael and Lucifer have come to this small town?”
Dean nodded slowly. “There have been a few cracks about fishing, but I’m kind of done with that joke.”
Castiel’s eyes narrowed very slightly. “How is fishing a joke? It appears to be a valid form of food procurement.”
“Cas, why have Michael and Lucifer come to Smallville?”
“Because they have found a new vessel,” Castiel said, glancing back towards the gently wafting white curtain, past which the quaint view of Smallville masqueraded as a Stubbs painting.
Dean frowned, all hints of playful banter he had shared with Castiel dropping like shells from a shotgun. “I thought the whole point was getting our parents to—”
“Yes,” Castiel finally met his eye, “Heaven’s breeding plan is still part of the equation.” The angel’s mouth faltered slightly, his eyelids fluttered and his brow furrowed, as if the next piece of information was painful to convey. “The new vessel is a Winchester.”
“What did you just say?” Sam hissed.
Dean and Cas turned to see him standing in the doorway, fully dressed. Sam’s eyes were wide, his cheeks sunken, mouth twisting in disbelief. “Did you just say—”
“Dad sure did get around, didn’t he?” Dean tried to laugh it off, staring down at his feet. His hands rose to rest on his hips, and the edges of his smiling mouth quivered very slightly with fury and possibly nausea. “There’s probably one of us every few states over.”
“You misunderstand,” Castiel said very quietly, watching Dean with eyes that were incontestably full of human sadness. “This vessel, he is the progeny of both your parents — he’s a descendant of both the Winchester and Campbell bloodlines.”
“How is that even possible?” Sam asked, finally stepping fully into the room. “Mom only ever had two kids, right? Dad would have told us—” he stopped, suddenly.
The brothers avoided each other’s eyes.
Finally, Dean grunted, “It’s Kent, isn’t it?”
Castiel looked from him to his brother, jaw working very slightly. “I didn’t know you were even aware that he was adopted—”
“He seemed familiar,” Dean sighed, looking up at last, but meeting the eyes of neither his brother nor their angel. “Something about that kid... I don’t know.”
“Dean, that’s impossible,” Sam said gently, “he’s too young — by the time he was born, Mom was already…”
“It is him,” Castiel said, his voice even softer than Sam’s.
They were both watching Dean as if he were a volatile substance of some sort. Bound to burst or implode at any point.
“The mechanics are complicated, but—”
Cas was interrupted by a thoughtless knock against the doorframe, and the three of them turned to see Lex Luthor, sanguine and smirking as always.
“Good morning gentlemen, I thought you might want to join me for some breakfast— oh .” He stood up straighter, his eyes widening. “You must be Castiel.”
He stepped further into the room, hand outstretched. His face had brightened considerably, then looked slightly strained when Castiel simply stared at the proffered hand.
Dean gave a low chuckle. “Don’t take it personally, he’s got the social instincts of a toaster.”
As Castiel turned to give the elder Winchester a wounded look, Luthor tucked the rejected hand into the pocket of his trousers. He leaned back on his heels and lifted his chin in the classic motion that was characteristic to him, but also decidedly practical in this situation, where he found himself in a room full of insanely tall men. “So… Clark Kent, harbinger of the Apocalypse. Can’t say I saw that coming.”
Dean’s jaw set suddenly. Before he could say or threaten anything, Castiel turned to Sam, head tilted slightly to the side. “Who is this man?”
“He’s…” Sam began, watching the tension-filled glares passing between his brother and their host; though, to be fair, Dean seemed to be the only one glaring — Lex made do with a smirk that belonged in a schoolyard sass-off.
“He’s the guy with the castle,” Sam grimaced.
“At some point, you’ll both realize that trusting me will significantly simplify your lives,” Lex said coolly, “Clark already has.”
Dean looked up, eyes narrowed and smile tight. “Yeah. I noticed that. You wanna share with the rest of the class what kind of reason your ass has for hanging around an underage—”
“Wow, ha. Yeah.” Sam cleared his throat, reaching over to lay an arm across his brother’s wide chest, one hand gripped on the opposite shoulder. “So. Um, why don’t you and Cas go pick up the kid and bring him back here so we can work out—”
“I could simply retrieve him,” Castiel began, but Dean, shaking off his brother’s arm and stepping back as if his moment of anger had been unintentional, shook his head.
“No,” he growled, glaring down at his bare feet, almost lost in the lush carpet. “You guys go… I think Luthor and I should sort some things out.”
Luthor’s smile widened imperceptibly.
The Impala’s rumble faded to a soft purr as Sam pulled up near the barn. He was trying to ignore the way Castiel continually vibrated in the front seat. He was all but fidgeting with the urge to simply appear wherever it was Clark Kent happened to be. “We’re here, Cas, it didn’t take that much longer—”
“One thing I do not envy humans,” the angel said softly, running one finger along the glinting windowsill of his door, “is the amount of time spent going places.”
“Well, you know what they say,” Sam said as he smoothly extracted himself from the car, “life’s a journey, not a destination.”
Castiel scowled, climbing out of his seat as well and shutting the door distractedly. “That sentence confuses the concepts of time and space, Sam. I understand the metaphor, but that doesn’t change the fact that the statement is inherently false.”
Sam was about to respond, when—
“Can I help you, gentlemen?”
The shout came from a-ways down the field. Sam and Castiel turned to see a sun-bleached man, years of weather leathering his skin. Just as many years of stubbornness and suspicion furrowed his brow. He had a rake in one hand, the other resting on his hip.
Mrs. Kent stood up from her crouch in the flowerbed, looking from her husband to the large, mutton-chopped man in their driveway.
“Uh, yeah.” Sam raised a hand, shielding his eyes from the sun and making a vague greeting gesture. “Mrs. Kent, Mr. Kent? Hey, we’re here to see Clark—”
Clark stood on the porch, leaning slightly over the railing.
Sam’s breath caught in his chest.
He watched the tilt of the head and jaw-line that so suddenly reminded him of Dean, a younger Dean when his brother’s guard was down — he could see now how the boy’s nose and eyes were arguably similar to his, as was the heavy brow — the lips verging on a feminine pout that Sam knew very well from years spent teasing his brother.
The jet-black hair of John Winchester.
The wide blue eyes of Mary Campbell.
“Hey Clark,” Sam said, his voice barely betraying the new lump in his throat, “we need you to come back over to Luthor’s—”
“He’s not going anywhere with you,” Mr. Kent said calmly, leaning the rake against the side of the house. He wiped his hands on the plaid of his shirt, and stepped towards the two strange men on his property. “ Agent. ” He looked both Sam and Castiel up and down. “Dressing pretty casual at the bureau now, are they?”
Sam looked down at his jeans and jacket, smiling despite himself. Then looked up again at the mistrustful farmer before him. “I don’t know if Clark explained it to you, but we’re not FBI agents. And what we’re dealing with is something much larger than—”
“Oh, I understand,” the elder Kent spoke over him, ignoring the warning hand his wife placed on his arm, raising his chin and glaring at Sam past the tanned and loose skin of his cheeks. “You’re trying to involve my son in something far more dangerous than I’m comfortable with.”
“Dad,” Clark had made his way down the steps and to his father’s side, placing one large hand on his shoulder. “They didn’t mean to get me involved. I was the one who eavesdropped on them and Lex.” He looked over at his mother for confirmation, but she looked away.
Sam saw Mr. Kent’s eye twitch very slightly at the mention of the young Luthor’s name. But before he could resume his protestations, or Sam resume his attempts to explain, Castiel said, “Mr. Kent, your son’s involvement in the Apocalypse was foretold millennia ago. You cannot lay it at the feet of Sam and Dean Winchester.”
“How is that possible?” Kent growled.
“Because,” Sam said, avoiding Clark’s eyes, “he’s our brother.” He focused on the fear in the face of the father. “Mine and Dean’s.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw the confusion spread on Clark’s face, his hand go slack on his father’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, agen—” Martha Kent began, then shook her head very slightly, “ Sam , there must be some mistake. Clark can’t be your brother.”
“If you’re referring to the fact that Clark was not born on this planet, rest assured that this has no bearing on the situation. It does not change the fact that he is, in fact, a Winchester,” said Castiel.
The vicinity surrounding the Kents and their unwanted visitors got very, very quiet.
The mooing in the nearby field thundered in the silence.
Sam’s voice barely rose above a whisper. “Run that by me again.”
Martha was the first to recover. She looked first from the angel to her husband and then to her son. “That… what could you possibly mean by that?”
“Who are you?” Clark had stepped forward, his earnest blue eyes trying to bore through Castiel. “Are you another demon? Like Crowley?”
Castiel’s head tilted very slightly. “No, Kal-El,” and Sam could almost swear he saw a smile hidden in his friend’s scruff, “My name is Castiel. I am an angel of the Lord.”
Dean Winchester leaned back against the pool table, hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched, watching Lex Luthor pour himself a tall glass of orange juice.
The young man’s shoulders were clearly defined beneath the soft pastel of his shirt, and it somehow irritated Dean to see how devoid of tension they were. The young Luthor had strolled into his office, Dean in tow, and had gone about his morning routine with an insulting nonchalance.
First, he briefly skimmed the news on the front page of the paper on his desk, bringing to life a classical and morbid piece on the stereo and with a flick of a button. Lex was far too comfortable turning his back on the armed man inside his home.
The tinted light streaming in through the window glinted off the curve of his skull and the line of his collarbone as he turned to offer Dean a glass.
The hunter shook his head very slightly, jaw working.
Lex sighed and turned fully to face and smile tiredly at his houseguest. He took a slow sip of his juice, one hand resting in the pocket of his slacks. “You really are physically incapable of relaxing, aren’t you?” he chuckled softly.
Dean simply continued to glare.
“Does anyone buy it?” he asked after a few moments.
“Your whole ‘friendly neighborhood billionaire’ shtick.”
The smug smile dripped off Lex’s face slowly but completely, leaving him with a wide-eyed look that, despite himself, forced Dean to remember how much younger this man was than himself. Barely older than Sam had been when Dean had first wrenched him away from his life at Stanford.
Lex set his glass on the desk and smiled uncomfortably down at his gleaming dress shoes. “I guess I’m not the only one who’s been doing some late-night reading…”
“Yeah, your dad’s a dick, that’s not what I’m talking about.” Dean stood up from his supine position against the pool table, and took several slow steps towards the young Luthor. “What I mean is, does anyone actually believe that an up and coming corporate mogul like yourself chooses to live in a podunk little town? With absolutely no ulterior motive whatsoever?” He moved even closer, watching Lex’s adam’s apple bob shallowly and the slight tensing at the edge of his jaw. “And don’t give me that bull about this town being your home , kid, you live in a freaking castle. This place isn’t your home, it’s your kingdom .”
Lex’s eyelids fluttered briefly. His lips turned up in a tight smile as he raised his chin. “How could I forget? Dean Winchester, the renowned expert in human nature.” He looked away, then back up at Dean through his lashes. “If you’re going to ruin another of my shirts, mind giving me a heads up? I’m actually quite fond of this one.”
Dean took a step back, and Lex acknowledged this with a brief and possibly grateful nod.
“So, if you’re not going to beat me to a pulp,” the young Luthor cleared his throat, “does that mean you believe I’m not actually out to… what, rape and pillage this defenseless little hamlet?” He let a smile curl up one side of his mouth. “Is that the story we’re going with?”
Dean looked away, reaching up to scratch at the stubbly edge of his jaw. Lex watched him for a few moments, waiting for a response, but all he saw was the man’s features suddenly collapse into a look of pained confusion.
“Okay, seriously, what the hell are we listening to?” Dean glanced over at the stereo.
Lex recovered quickly from the sudden change in subject and then took a moment to place the piece and its position on his playlist; the sparse accompaniment, the woeful tones of the sopran… Lex felt an actual grin pulling at the edges of his mouth. “Yes, a bit melancholy for such an early hour, isn’t it?”
Dean followed the arc of a line, his eyes remote but clear.
“She sounds like she’s in pain,” he finally commented.
Lex nodded approvingly. “She is. This is Addio, del Passato from Verdi’s La Traviata . It’s a lament for a life wasted and a love denied. A dying woman realizes she’s missed her chance to spend what little time she had left with the man she loved.”
Dean’s eyes, so much softer than the rest of him, actually met Lex’s for the slightest of moments, and the vague edge of a smile appeared.
“Last night on earth…” he muttered to himself and stepped away from the young man and the desk, back towards the emptiness of the room surrounding.
Lex watched him go, then, as if he couldn’t help himself, “I can understand why the sentiment would resonate with you.”
The older man’s shoulders tensed very slightly and he turned slowly to give Luthor a warning look. But Lex simply leaned back against the desk again, burying both hands deep in his pockets and raising the pointed toes of his shoes off the ground. “If Edlund’s later works are anything to go by, the man, or I should say the being I met this morning, Castiel, has a particular significance—”
“I didn’t ask you for a book report, Luthor,.” Dean snapped, trying to both ignore and deny the heat that had risen to his face and the back of his neck. “You’re trying to be cute, I get that, but let’s keep our heads out of our asses for as long as possible here, understood?”
Lex made no attempt to hide his amusement. “I regret if my recent foray into literary criticism has caused offense.”
“Why do you stay in this town?” Dean suddenly barked, advancing on the young Luthor again, hands fisting at his sides and obviously fighting the urge to destroy another of Lex’s shirts.
Lex’s eyes darted up from the sight of Dean’s fists to the bulk hidden beneath yards of plaid. And then even higher to the man’s intensely green eyes, lashes longer than was conducive to his role as intimidator. Eyes that bore a marked resemblance, Lex couldn’t help noting, to those of a certain farm boy.
“I stay because I’m needed.” Lex heard his own voice, strangely hoarse and hollow, but undeniably his, utter the words. He swallowed, looking away from Dean again, and added, reaching desperately for a smile, “You know, in case the world decides to end, or something.”
More than seven thousand miles away from Smallville, a small figure limped down a darkened corner of the Old City of East Jerusalem.
The narrow alley suffused with the smells of a long summer day, of stone baking in the sun, old refuse rotting in the gutters, and the tang of human fear and sweat. Shallow breaths resounded off the cooling stone walls, the human heart rat-atat-ting against the delicate ribcage. The mortal body filled with an immortal fear.
“Raphael keeps his dogs hungry, I’ll give him that.” A gravelly british voice echoed softly off the archway where the figure hid in a pool of shadow. A small black-clad man stepped into a ray of summer moonlight.
“Crowley,” the figure gasped, long strands of sweat-clumped hair fluttering in the fugitive’s breath.
“Last time I saw you, you were in that delightful little stripper in Velingrad. This is something of a change…” the King of Hell took in the stooped little creature before him — a girl no older than twenty, lank brown hair, khaki skirt and a Birthright tee-shirt. “I never could keep track of your tastes.”
A pale and freckled hand rose up to smooth the sweat-drenched hair out of the frightened little face. The edge of a smile appeared to be pulling at the thin lips. “I’m versatile.” The voice was adolescent and congested, but beneath it there rang a familiar and eternally solid note.
“You’re also meant to be dead,” the demon chuckled, eyebrows rising and eyes glinting. He glanced around them at the ancient arches and cracked flagstones. “I’ve always hated this town…”
“Everyone hates this town.” The figure had already begun to stand taller, one hip pressed back into the stone wall in a jaunty stance that ran so deep it wouldn’t be denied, no matter how awkward or unsuited the vessel. “That’s one reason I thought I’d be safe here.”
Crowley’s tongue tsk ed gently against his teeth. “Safety’s a hot commodity these days. Especially for the likes of you.”
A grin split the girl’s face, lighting up the plain features for the slightest of seconds. “You here to pull my ass out of the fire?”
The King of Hell’s face lengthened in amusement momentarily, biting both his lips. Then he gave a soft shake of his head. “Not in so many words, no.”
The smile faltered on the freckled face, but the fire in the eyes still glistened. “You’re here for the same thing they are.”
“Au contraire my little… what do they call you here? Ah yes, Jibril , such a spicy ring to it—”
“What makes you think you can just take what archangels have been scrapping over for days?”
Crowley gave a heavy sigh, turning his eyes up to the heavens — farther now from any other place on earth. “I’m not going to take it, you imbecile, you’re going to give it to me.” His gaze slid back down to the creature before him, just as the smile slithered higher. “Aren’t you, Gabriel?”
The archangel hung his head, smiling, it appeared, despite himself. “So rather than one of my tantrum-throwing brothers, you’re telling me I’m going to hand over the last of the archangel blades to the King of Hell? I have to say…” he grinned, “that does rather sound like me.”
“To be fair, I’m merely a delivery boy. We both know it’s either Moose or Squirrel who are going to wield the blessed thing.”
Gabriel looked up at the demon who stood before him, the gaze older than the stones surrounding. Older than the conflict that shook them.
“Don’t tell the boys I’m still kicking,” he whispered. He reached into the tattered and stained tee-shirt, drawing forth a long, glinting and slender blade. And placed it in the hands of the King of Hell.
This body was small, but it was tightly wound — the neural pathways crisp, the adrenaline-flow nice and strong. There was a lingering moment of human lust as he fitted himself snugly inside the little blonde, but that very quickly gave way to the pure pleasure inherent in having a body to feel lust in.
He revelled in it. Had spent an entire night revelling in it, but now the time had come for action.
It didn’t take long to root through the terrified thoughts and memories that came with this body — it came with a name as well, Chloe — before he found what he was looking for with almost indecent ease.
Chloe’s dad kept a gun in a shoebox hidden at the back of his closet.
He’d shown Chloe where it was when she was fourteen, when he’d left her home alone for the first time. Good old overprotective, overreacting Dad…
Please, please don’t do this—!
He shook himself, strengthening his hold on the surprisingly feisty soul, and felt poor little Chloe’s lips stretch in a wide grin.
“Please don’t tell anyone,” Clark’s blue eyes were wide and earnest, his face open and pleading — it actually made Sam slightly uncomfortable.
He looked away, clearing his throat. “Don’t worry, we won’t—”
“Seriously, not even Lex.” The blue eyes were lost momentarily behind long dark lashes as Clark lowered his gaze.
“ Especially not Lex Luthor,” Mr. Kent growled, ignoring the imploring look his son sent his way. “I know Lex is trying his best to be a man better than his father, but that doesn’t change the fact that he investigated you for a year.” He reached over and placed his hand on Clark’s for the slightest of moments.
“Agent,” the older man looked up at Sam, a new softness and vulnerability in his rugged features, “I mean, Sam , I don’t know how you know what you know about our son, but we need your word that—”
“He doesn’t know yet,” Castiel said, “because I haven’t explained it to him. But I intend to. Unless of course you would rather do it yourself.”
Mrs. Kent had tried to offer the angel a chair once they’d stepped into the house, but he had informed her gently that he preferred to stand.
He stood , alright. Like a strange, long-coated pillar in the middle of the Kents’ kitchen. The rest of them had sat down at the same table where Sam and his brother had first interrogated Lex.
Mr. and Mrs. Kent glanced at each other, then both turned to look at Clark, who was still staring down at the table as if he could see straight through it.
“No,” Mrs. Kent said softly, “please, tell us what you know.”
Without further hesitation, Castiel began. “Clark was born on the planet Krypton to Jor-El and his wife Lara. However, he was conceived on earth.”
“What?” Mrs. Kent’s brow furrowed, her mouth opening very slightly.
“Jor-El came to earth thirty six years ago,” Castiel continued, “he learned of Heaven’s breeding program and decided to take advantage of it.” He paused at the look of confusion shared by the Kents around the table.
Sam quickly cleared his throat and explained, “Our parents were specifically, um, meant for each other. They, well,” he began, before tapering off and shooting Castiel a pleading look.
“The Winchester and Campbell bloodlines were brought together by Heaven in order to create vessels worthy of archangels. The result is a form of humanity that is physically superior—”
Sam cleared his throat again, trying to pretend heat hadn’t risen to his cheeks, and that both the elder Kents weren’t looking from him to Clark with a questioning and possibly disturbed look. “Yeah,” he coughed, “basically, we’re prime product as far as angels are concerned…”
“And the devil,” the youngest Kent who was apparently also the youngest Winchester added, his voice soft but steady.
“Lucifer is still an angel,” Castiel said carefully, “and that means that, just like Michael, he needs a vessel’s permission to—”
“Wait, what?” Clark looked up, eyes wide and full mouth falling open. “They can’t just take what they want?”
“No,” Castiel said, and was about to expound on that when Sam’s head suddenly shot up.
“Wait, wait, thirty six ? I just got that. You said thirty six years ago, Cas, what the—”
“Clark is sixteen,” Mrs. Kent said quickly, “maybe there’s been some sort of mistake—”
“No,” Castiel said decisively, “this would be clear if you let me finish my explanation.” There was a distinct note of annoyance in his voice, and Sam looked up at him in surprised amusement.
“Okay Cas, we’ll stop interrupting you.”
The angel avoided his eyes and nodded once, looking back again at the Kents.
“Jor-El imbued John Winchester’s seed with Kryptonian DNA. Once Mary Campbell was successfully impregnated, Jor-El removed the inseminated egg and took it back to Krypton and his wife. The journey took time, as did the procedures that allowed Jor-El to impregnate his Lara with John and Mary’s child. Specifically, it took twenty years. That’s how Kal-El can be both the son of Jor-El and Lara as well as a full blooded Campbell-Winchester. The first conceived although the last born, he retains the superhuman powers provided to him by Earth’s yellow sun, but he is also able to serve as an archangel’s vessel—”
“Superhuman powers?” Sam looked up again, then ignored Castiel’s look of frustration and turned to Clark. “Superhuman powers ?”
A distinct pinkness had risen to Clark’s cheeks, while Mr. and Mrs. Kent had definitely lost some color.
“Yeah, um,” Clark began, “there’s kind of some stuff I can, um, do.”
Lex watched the hunter pace the room. His boots beat out a steady rhythm against the carpet, one hand clasping and unclasping around the gun at his hip.
“Why the hell are they taking so long?” he was heard to growl, followed by, “I never should have let those two go off on their own…”
“Would you prefer to wait outside?” Lex asked after a while. He’d been trying to use the downtime to actually get some work done, but the big blond in denim was making that damn near impossible. “Or I could have my driver take you over to the Kents’.”
He managed to smile at the indignant look on Dean’s face, and glanced down at his steepled fingers. “I’d drive you over myself, but I’m trying to learn as much as I can about what we might expect in the coming days—”
“I don’t get driven places.” Dean narrowed his eyes.
It seemed his original motive for staying behind, allegedly the attempt to put the fear of himself into Lex, had long been abandoned. From what Lex could tell, this was what it looked like when Dean Winchester admitted defeat — short of pointing a gun at his head (a point which they’d come quite close to several times already) — it seemed Dean had resigned himself to the fact that he could neither control nor intimidate Lex Luthor.
“Yes, I noticed that in the books,” Lex couldn’t help one last dig at the man. “Not really big on letting other people be in control, are you?”
Dean’s eyes narrowed further. But before he could open his mouth and attempt to reply, Lex reached into his pocket and tossed the older man a pair of keys. “Why don’t you just take my Porsche?”
Dean stared down at the keys in his hand, then back up at the young man at the desk. “Are you freakin’ insane?”
“No,” Lex sighed, leaning forward over his desk. “For the thousandth time, I trust you. Say hello to Clark for me, will you?” He turned back to the screen of his laptop.
After a long moment, Lex heard the shuffling, clomping sound of Dean finally leaving the room. The young Luthor gave a small sigh of relief, allowing his features to settle into a genuinely smug smile.
Dean tried as hard as he could not to feel like he was cheating on his car.
The Porsche ran smoother than Irish whiskey, purring like a satisfied woman who’d only just begun to catch her breath. The leather seats were supple and the cornering was so solid he could’ve sworn the car was on tracks.
He parked behind Baby on the dirt driveway and got out as soon as he could, actually quelling the urge to start making excuses, or run a hand unnecessarily over the Impala’s hood. He gave in to the last one, making a silent promise to them both that he’d make Sam drive the Porsche back to Luthor’s.
He looked up at the sound of Sam’s voice and turned to see his brother and… his other brother.
Cas was there too; the three of them were standing around in the middle of a field. Sam looked somewhat windswept, Cas was stiff as always, and Clark was grinning and waving like a big eager puppy. Near to them Dean could see something that looked like an old, rusted tractor frame — if someone had managed to somehow twist it into a complicated knot. A cloud of dust was still settling around them, and one of the nearby tree stumps was smoking slightly for some reason.
Dean frowned. “What the hell have you guys been doing?” He started towards them, swinging one leg over the fence and taking in what appeared to be the source of the dust — a deep trench had been cut in the field by what had to have been a dirtbike of some kind; it went on farther into the horizon than Dean could see.
Both Sam and Clark opened their mouths, looking equally uncertain as to what might follow — when the sound of yet another car pulling into the driveway caused all four of them to turn around.
A little red jeep pulled up behind Lex’s Porsche. Dean heard Clark inhale, the air whistling slightly through his teeth as a cute little blonde — the same cute little blonde from the coffeeshop — climbed out of the jeep and gave them all a big friendly wave.
“Friend of yours?” Dean asked Clark, who started to nod, just as the girl — Chloe , he remembered now — yelled, “Hey guys!” and reached into her purse—
And pulled out a snub-nosed .38.
Dean moved before the image of the gun had even registered in his mind, before he’d even realized the girl — with black eyes glinting in a grinning face —- had aimed it at the big blue expanse of Clark’s chest—
Dean moved in front of his little brother and felt the bullet tear through his outstretched hand — felt it pass right through bone and sinew and continue on its terrible journey towards Clark’s unprotected torso—
Where it bounced right off.
It left a smoking hole in his tee-shirt, but the boy barely even seemed to register the impact. Instead, a look of complete horror had filled his face and he’d hurried forward immediately. “Are you okay?!”
“Dammit, Dean!” he heard Sam breathe. Then, the flutter of wings as Castiel appeared behind the little demon blonde, knocking the gun out of her hand. As he reached for her forehead, a torrent of black smoke burst from her mouth.
Cas caught the unconscious girl as she fell, but glanced past her at the wounded hunter.
“Dean, why did you just try to catch a bullet ?!” he barked angrily.
The eldest Winchester let out a hoarse laugh that had more whimper in it than he would openly admit.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time…!”
“Now this is what I call good scotch.”
Lex whirled around, fingers raised against the panic button in his pocket — one light touch would bring four highly trained and heavily armed men bursting through his office door — but then let his hand curl into a fist.
The man standing in front of his impressive liquor array thoughtfully sloshed amber liquid in a crystal glass.
“Crowley,” Lex said, trying to ignore the strange little pocket of fear that had appeared in his stomach — facing the King of Hell was one thing when you had a Winchester on either side of you, but here, alone, in his deserted office... “What can I do for you?”
The demon surveyed him over the edge of his glass, bulging eyes just the slightest bit narrowed. “A dance would be nice.”
Lex allowed his grin to widen and glanced down momentarily. “Okay then, what can you do for me?”
“Ah, an intelligent question from an intelligent young man.” Crowley reached inside the jacket of his suit and pulled out what appeared to be a long and jaggedly conical blade. It reflected the surrounding light in a way that made Lex think of an animal’s fangs. “Do you know what this little beauty is?”
Lex narrowed his eyes very slightly. “That’s an angel blade, isn’t it?”
The stubble dimpled around Crowley’s mouth as he smiled. “Clever boy. But never quite as clever as you think you are. This is an arch angel blade, the last of its kind, and pretty much the only weapon in the whole of creation that can resolve our little divine pest problem.”
Lex took a step forward but Crowley immediately held up a single finger. “Ah ah ah.” He tilted the blade towards himself and further out of Lex’s reach, before tucking it back into his jacket. “Not just yet, my clever boy. I assume you’ve done the reading?”
Lex stared at him in confusion for the slightest of moments. Then comprehension dawned smoothly over his features. The edge of the young Luthor’s mouth trembled into a fractured smile. His eyes widened slightly and he looked down again, allowing his gaze to focus somewhere on the carpet between him and the demon.
“You want to make a deal.”
A low chuckle that flirted with obscenity: “Let me guess, you can’t imagine what else I might tempt you with.”
Lex’s eyes fluttered upwards for the slightest of moments. His form, usually so still, shifted slightly. “I can imagine plenty.”
“Ah, but nothing that’s worth your soul, I’m sure.” Crowley bit both his lips, watching Lex carefully — noting the color that had risen to the young man’s cheeks as well as the sudden and defensive tightening of his shoulders.
Lex finally raised his head again, eyes narrow slits and mouth tight. “Why don’t you tell me, since you seem to know the answer.”
The demon laughed. “I am going to enjoy working with you, Alexander, honestly, the workplace drama alone—”
“Working with me?” Lex forced a smile, sliding his sweating hands into the pockets of his trousers and raising his chin. “You’re really that confident I’ll make a deal with you?”
Crowley gave a rumbling sigh and started towards Lex, who fought the urge to step back as long as he could — even when the King of Hell’s shoes tapped against his and he could feel his breath on his face.
It was a low growl: “Yes.”
Lex Luthor stepped back, a flood of terror rising in his chest. Causing his throat to close up and the back of his neck to tingle. A few more stumbling steps and he came up against the desk, knocked over a heavy pen holder, scattering papers as his weight shifted.
“Petulance does not become you. We have business, Picard,” Crowley chuckled.
Lex took a moment to breathe deeply, shutting his eyes and conquering the fear running rampant in his throat. He opened his eyes slowly and stood up straight, squaring his shoulders and meeting the King of Hell’s gaze.
“I wouldn’t count my chickens just yet.” His voice shook despite his best efforts.
“Aw,” Crowley reached towards him and rapped his knuckles against Lex’s skull, “but she looks about ready to hatch.”
“Are we done here?” Lex moved away, knocking more things off the desk. He didn’t care, so long as he created space between him and the demon.
“You haven’t heard my proposition yet.”
“Something tells me I won’t be interested.”
“Your mouth says no, but your eyes say ravish me .” The long glinting blade made an appearance again, twirling just below Lex’s chin. “Why not let your ears in on the debate and allow me to present my terms?”
Lex’s adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “You can’t force me into a deal, I do know that much.”
Crowley grinned. “Love, I really don’t think I’ll need to.”
“A bulletproof Winchester, huh?” Dean laughed weakly. “Damn, they’re just gonna love that.”
Then he hissed as the angel ran gentle and light-filled fingers over the mess of his hand.
Clark watched as the skin closed up around Dean’s wound, leaving a patch of pink and raw-looking flesh, but no sign of lasting damage — he briefly used his X-ray vision to confirm that yes, Castiel had rebuilt Dean’s bones as well.
Currently, the angel was simply holding onto Dean’s hand and glaring at him.
Dean had been sprawled across the couch, the afternoon light from the barn window glinting in the little beads of sweat that had stood out on his forehead. His teeth clenched in pain. But now he sat up, answering the angel’s glare with a winsome grin. “You’re still pissed at me, huh?”
“Well, you did try to catch a bullet, Dean,” Sam grumbled. “Not exactly the smartest thing you’ve ever done.”
“Yeah, but you have to admit it isn’t the dumbest thing, either.” The eldest Winchester looked pretty pleased with himself.
Castiel dropped Dean’s now-healed hand with a touch of angry resignation, and moved back towards Clark. He glanced down at the bullet hole in the young man’s tee-shirt. “You are completely unharmed?” he asked.
Clark nodded mutely, still watching the man on the couch past the angel’s shoulder. “Is Chloe going to be okay?”
The smug grin faded from Dean’s face and Sam stopped his pacing by the window.
“Oh yeah,” Sam began, “she’ll be fine, just a little shook up.”
Mr. and Mrs. Kent had taken the still-unconscious Chloe home, after Castiel had confirmed that she would be fine and remember nothing when she woke up.
“And that thing that made her try to shoot me, that was a demon?”
Dean nodded slowly. “But that bracelet we gave her should keep it from happening again.”
“But what about everyone else in town?” Clark asked, aware that a note of childish fear had crept into his voice. “Can anyone just be taken over by a demon? At any time?”
Sam and Dean glanced at each other, but Castiel simply answered, “Yes.”
“Nice, Cas…” Dean muttered, flexing his newly healed hand.
Castiel glanced back at the blond hunter on the couch, and Clark could see traces of fury and hurt in the angel’s expression, which nonetheless seemed invisible to his brother. “This doesn’t appear to be the appropriate time for niceties, Dean.”
“Or tact …” Dean stood up from the couch a bit stiffly, still flexing his hand and stretching his lower back. Both Sam and Castiel appeared to watch Dean carefully, as if trying to assess him for damage.
“Don’t worry about it, kid,” Dean, oblivious to the others’ attention, moved towards Clark, “we’ve been doing this for a while—”
“Are you going to tell me that everyone I care about is going to be safe?” Clark asked, his voice softer than he had intended, watching the expression change in the hunter’s green eyes.
Dean was silent for once, dropping his gaze. His jaw worked under the stubble. “No, of course not… but we need to focus here. I mean, I’m really stoked about the superpowers thing, I am, but we’re gonna need some serious guns in our corner if—”
The sound of Sam’s phone cut through the loft and all three of them, Dean, Clark, and Cas, turned to watch him answer it:
“Agent— oh hey, Lex, we—” His face went blank for the slightest of moments, eyes locking with his brother’s.
“We’ll be right there.”
Luthor sat perched on the side of the pool table, the toe of one shiny loafer keeping him balanced forward, one hand twirling something that glinted—
“Gabriel’s blade,” Cas hissed, and Dean felt the brush of his shoulder as he moved forward towards Lex.
Lex handed the blade over, and Dean watched as his entire body seemed to slump slightly in relief — as if holding the blade had weighed on him somehow. Lex was staring at Cas with eyes that looked familiar to Dean — this was the look Sam had first had when he met the angel. There was hope, and trust, and just a little bit of hero-worship in that gaze.
Dean couldn’t help thinking back to the framed magazines he had seen lining the hallway earlier.
No, not magazines — comic books. Warrior Angel.
Dean felt a grin pull at the edge of his mouth.
“How did you acquire this?” Cas was asking Lex, who tried for the life of him to look suave.
“Does it matter?”
Cas looked up at him, eyes fiercely blue and narrowed. “Yes,” he said very clearly.
The grin faltered on Lex’s face and Dean bit his lip to keep from laughing.
“I got it from Crowley,” Lex said finally, straightening up. But he was then forced to lean back again when Dean charged past Cas. The hunter just barely kept himself from getting a good hold on Luthor’s shirt again.
“You made a deal?!”
Lex’s smug grin made a second appearance, but Dean could see the edge of it quivering. “I’m not an idiot. Of course I didn’t make a deal.”
“Lex, you need to be careful.” A hand on Dean’s shoulder gently but firmly — very firmly — moved him aside, and Clark moved up to stand near Lex. “You shouldn’t be talking to Crowley, he might send a demon to possess you.”
The smile Lex gave Clark had lost nearly all of its smirk. “I’m actually covered on that front.”
“What do you mean?” Clark looked Lex up and down in concern. “They got Chloe, they could—”
“I took precautions.” Lex glanced past Clark’s wide shoulders at the Winchesters and the angel. Then he lifted up the edge of his shirt to reveal an anti-possession tattoo surrounded by the angry pink bloom of skin just above his hip.
“I had it done last night… I’d suggest you get one as well, Clark, if I didn’t think your mother would kill us both.” He laughed at the slight pinkness that rose to Clark’s cheeks.
“What do you think the terms were?” Sam’s voice rumbled softly over Dean’s shoulder, and both he and Cas were careful not to react.
Cas shook his head very slightly, still watching Lex and the youngest Winchester. “I don’t think he can be trusted.”
“I’ll get it out of him,” Dean growled and started forward again, but Sam’s hand on his arm held him back for a second.
“Why don’t you let me try,” he said, “something tells me he’s just not intimidated by you anymore.”
Dean glared at his brother for a few milliseconds but then gave a short sigh of resignation and a brief nod. He placed one hand on Cas’s shoulder and squeezed. “Grab the kid and let’s clear out. Give puppy-dog-eyes a crack at Baldylocks.”
While Cas retrieved Clark, Dean and Sam had a quick and whispered conference:
“You gonna tell him his mommy really loved him?”
“Dean, I’m gonna talk to him. See if I can get something other than one liners about where he got the blade, okay?”
“Okay, but if the little shit made a deal, we’re letting Crowley’s bitches have their chew-toy, agreed?”
Sam sighed, giving Dean a look. “You don’t mean that.”
Cas and Clark had already started towards the door, and Dean turned to join them, glancing back at his brother over his shoulder.
“Tell him Hell’s pretty nice this time of year.”
Once the other three were out of the room, under some form of pretext Sam hadn’t paid much mind to, Sam turned to face Lex. The young tycoon still sat perched atop the pool table, but looked as though he’d been drained of all vitality.
“Hey,” Sam began awkwardly, and Lex glanced up at him, trying — despite his obviously shaken disposition — to raise one eyebrow and smirk.
He hopped off the table and started towards the small island of alcohol that stood near his desk. “Can I get you a drink, Sam?” he asked, his back turned.
Sam watched it for a few milliseconds, then said: “No. But you can tell me what you traded Crowley for the blade.”
Lex waited until he’d finished pouring himself a drink, and then turned to face the younger, though no longer youngest Winchester.
“I thought I was going to be on the receiving end of a classic Sam Winchester compassion speech. But there you go, demanding information rather than convincing me that I want to give it to you. How like your brother you’ve become.”
But unlike his brother, Sam didn’t become flustered or angry. Instead, he sighed, smiled, and placed his enormous hands in his pockets.
“I get it, Lex, you’ve done a lot of reading.”
Lex was the one momentarily caught off-guard. “What?”
“You’ve read the books, but that doesn’t mean you know us. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading about you the last few days, but I wouldn’t say I knew everything about you.”
Lex looked away momentarily, and Sam pressed on. “If you believe everything you read… you and me, Lex? We’re the bad guys.”
Lex smiled down sadly at the amber liquid in his glass. “I thought we were misunderstood Byronic heroes,” he mumbled.
Sam laughed, rocking back on his heels in an unconscious echo of the young Luthor’s customary stance. “That starts to explain the castle thing…” he took a deep breath. “Look,” Sam met Lex’s eyes, one hand raised in a universal open-palmed sign of peace or surrender, “whatever kind of deal you made with Crowley… I’m not here to judge. It’s not really something I’m cut out for. Dean’s pretty much got that market cornered.”
They both laughed sadly for a quiet moment, and then Sam continued, “But if you do tell me, maybe I can help.”
Lex looked up slowly, looking smaller and younger than he had any business doing, and said: “It won’t make a difference… and it would only hurt Clark if he knew.”
“Then I won’t tell him.”
Dean leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees and hanging his head slightly.
“He has good intentions,” Sam gestured sadly and hopelessly, one hand deep in his pocket.
“Yeah, he’s paving that road like nobody’s business.” Dean got to his feet, glaring tiredly around him at the lavish castle bedroom as if it was somehow a symbol of Lex Luthor’s stupidity.
“Dean,” Sam began again, the reconciliatory notes in his voice edged with impatience. But before he could embark on yet another defense of Lex, Dean held up one hand.
“I get it, I get it, you can stop.”
“Raphael is coming,” Castiel said, appearing suddenly behind both Winchesters and making them jump. “Michael is with him.”
“Dammit, Cas!” Dean’s voice shot up an octave, but Castiel ignored him.
“We need to prepare Clark,” he said.
The brothers’ eyes met, and Dean’s shoulders slumped very slightly.
“Yeah, we do.”
Moments later, they were back in Lex’s office, Luthor pacing in front of the window, avoiding the others’ gazes. Clark leaned against the pool table, looking confused. “But I thought they can’t… you know, unless I let them.”
Dean and Sam glanced at each other again, but before they could speak, Lex’s soft voice carried across the room. “Yes, Clark, but they can make you let them.”
Clark looked startled. “What do you mean—”
“I had stomach cancer for a while…” Dean muttered, “also did some randomass time-traveling.”
“Gabriel made me witness Dean’s death a couple million times,” Sam added.
“What do you think they’ll do to me?” Clark asked, a note of fear creeping into his words.
“Nothing,” said a deep and silky voice, and the four of them whirled around.
A group of six be-suited angels had appeared in Lex’s office, Raphael and Michael at their head, wearing spanking new vessels and dark frowns.
Michael, wearing what appeared to be a rather fit caucasian man in his mid-thirties (which was, however, already fraying at the corners) stepped forward and smiled. “Hello, Clark.”
Both Dean and Sam moved forward instinctively, shielding their younger brother. But Lex was the one who spoke. “This isn’t going to happen.”
The angels ignored him, and Michael’s eyes — a friendly brown — found Clark’s past the shoulders of his brothers. “He knows it is.”
“You start talking about destiny and I swear—” Dean began, the growl in his voice lower and rougher than ever.
Raphael, an elegant mass of braids resting majestically over one shoulder of a steel-gray suit, spoke over him. “Be quiet, Winchester. You are no longer the Michaelsword, and therefore serve no purpose.”
“Careful there, Raph, you almost hurt my feelings.”
“Wait,” Clark said, stepping forward past both his brothers. “Wait, can’t we talk about this?”
Michael smiled. “Of course we can.”
“Yes,” said a loud and familiar voice, echoing down over the hall Lex referred to as his office. “I do believe there is much to talk about.”
The Winchesters, angels, and Lex all looked up to see an impressive figure leaning against the railing above them.
“Dad?” Lex’s voice nearly broke.
Lionel Luthor smiled his feline smile and lowered his head slightly, his fingers fluttering above the railing before resuming their grip. “Not exactly.”
“Lucifer,” said Michael.
A series of soft metallic sounds pervaded the room as the angels drew their blades, followed by the click of boots on marble as Lex’s entire security force stepped into the room, filling the corners devoid of angels, black eyes glinting.
“So you got your self a tattoo, but let’s forget about the twenty something people employed and armed on your property, right?” Dean muttered. But before Lex could respond, Clark pushed past them both, moving towards the center of the room like a large, blue, and well-meaning freighter.
“Wait,” he held up both large hands, ignoring Dean’s hiss of “ Clark! ”
“Wait,” he said again, “please, listen to us, it doesn’t have to be like this—”
“Clark,” this time it was Michael who spoke his name. Softly, but in a tone that brooked no argument. He stepped forward, smiling kindly. “I understand where you’re coming from, son. But, as I’m sure your brothers have explained to you by now, this is—” his eyes darted to Dean for the slightest of seconds, “destiny.”
Michael looked over at Dean again, his brows contracting slightly and the edge of his mouth curling with a very slight smile. Then he turned back to Clark, ignoring the eldest Winchester entirely. “Once it’s all over, you’ll see how wonderful Paradise can be, how restful, and—”
“Please, if all of you just leave now, I won’t…” the elephantine farm-boy took a deep breath that hitched very slightly, “I won’t have to hurt you.”
Lex started to step forward, but Sam raised a hand to hold him back. The earnest young mogul was staring at his friend intensely, almost as intensely as he was avoiding the eyes of the creature on the balcony — the figure who was not his father.
“Hurt us?” Lucifer chuckled, Lionel’s dry voice ringing across the room. He began slowly descending the stairs, glancing out at Clark and the others past glorious strands of chestnut hair. “Do you really think this can be solved with violence, Kal-El?”
Lex finally looked up at his father, suppressing a shudder at how little was changed — he still moved with the same feline grace, his fingers still trailed along the edge of the rail in a familiar manner.
“I’m hoping there’s another way,” Clark spoke softly, arms still raised, looking from Lucifer to Michael. “but right now I’m more worried about you guys hurting my friends,” he glanced back over at Dean and Sam, “and my family.”
“Clark, what are you—” Lex began, moving towards him again, but now both Sam and Dean held him back, just as another voice carried out over the heads of angels and demons:
“ Family . That’s a funny, changeable sort of term, isn’t it?”
This was followed by the sounds of shuffling, and Martha Kent’s frightened gasping as her husband dragged her through the door. A knife to her throat, eyes glinting darkly.
“Dad—” Clark’s voice caught. All the power and majesty that had filled his bulky form was suddenly gone, leaving nothing but a frightened teenager.
“Not exactly,” the demon chuckled, looking past him directly at the two elder Winchesters, completely ignoring both the angel and demon squads that filled the room.
Both Lucifer and Michael stepped forward towards the rogue demon, brows furrowed in confusion. But before either of them could demand an explanation from this interloper, it was Castiel who stepped forward.
The angel’s face was twisted with sadness, one hand rising as if of its own accord.
“I’m sorry,” he began, his voice suddenly ragged, “I didn’t recognize you before, please—”
“No, I’m done listening,” the demon inside Jonathan Kent hissed, and the knife at Martha’s throat moved, bringing forth a whimper and bead of blood.
Clark’s adam’s apple bobbed but he remained where he stood, the demon holding his gaze.
“You see, Clark?” he said, “It never even occurred to those two to protect your family. Oh yeah, they’ll hand out anti-possession charms to cute little blondes after the fact, but trust me when I tell you, kid,” Mr. Kent raised his head, cheeks quivering slightly in the emotion of that which possessed him, “those two don’t really give a shit about family .”
“Adam,” Cas began again, ignoring Sam and especially Dean’s reactions. “what are you doing here?”
The demon laughed again, an edge of desperation to it, and used the hand that wasn’t holding a knife to Martha Kent’s throat to point a gun at Sam Winchester’s head. “I’m going to make this all go away.”
“Wait, now, slow your roll there, Adam.” Dean just barely managed to say the name, the hunter’s mouth souring and the edges stretching towards his jaw as he swallowed. “Let’s think about this for a—”
“I’ve been thinking.” The gun’s safety clicked. “I’ve had a lot of time, these past few millennia, and I’ve been thinking — you know what would keep all manner of angels from chasing after Winchester vessels?” the gun centered on Dean’s forehead, “ remove the temptation. ”
The gun fired.
All Lex saw was a blur, a flash of blue as Clark disappeared.
So did every one of the blades in the hands of the angels and the guns in the hands of the demons — including the one pointed at Dean. In a whirlwind of papers, Martha was no longer held by her possessed husband and instead safely in the arms of Lex Luthor.
Clark was in the center of the room again, crushing the weapons into a multicolored ball of metal roughly the size of a basketball.
Lex tried to remember how to breathe, Martha Kent huddled against his chest.
“We all need to calm down,” Clark said, his voice still shaking, tears shining in his eyes as he set down the giant metal ball. “Please, whoever you are,” his large blue eyes focused pleadingly on his father’s face, “please just leave my family out of this…”
“Clark—!” Lex heard himself breathe, felt Mrs. Kent pull away from him, felt his world slowly and completely implode around him—
Clark Kent’s eyes found those of his best friend, changed for the slightest of moments, full of unspoken apologies and promises, but then darted back to his father.
To Lucifer, to Michael. “Please don’t make me hurt you.”
“Your arrogance is positively refreshing,” Michael smiled again, “and your talents are exciting, but please try to understand, Clark. This is bigger than anything you’ve ever imagined. This is your chance to fulfill a grand destiny—”
“Sorry,” Clark stood up straighter, “I’ve already got one of those to avoid.”
Adam Winchester, still wearing Jonathan Kent, started forwards again. Apparently he was intent on finishing what he had started with the gun, using his bare hands. Clark moved to intercept him, then hissed in pain as Adam held up a slab of meteor rock.
As the enormous farm-boy started to fall back, Sam moved forward to block a punch aimed at the boy’s head.
“ Enough! ” Raphael shouted, but the demon and the hunter continued in their struggle. Sam finally wrestled the rock from Adam’s hand, tossing it out the stained glass window — moonlight and the sound of breaking glass flooding the room. Adam reached for his brother’s throat, and Sam did his best to fight him off.
Then Clark, who until that moment had been bent double, ill with the proximity of the meteor rock, straightened and physically separated the brothers with one easy movement.
“We don’t have time for this,” Lucifer said tiredly. And with one flick of his hand, Adam Winchester was flung from Clark’s grip and flattened against the railing of the balcony.
Over the demon’s screams of pain, both Sam and Dean called out his name, while Martha called out for her husband and Clark for his father.
Lex stood in a small bubble of silence.
He watched as his father, an alien glint in his dark eyes, the cruel smile that twisted his lips, however, was horribly familiar. In that miniscule fraction of a second, Lionel’s eyes met his, and Lex moved forward unconsciously. His blue eyes widened, his soft mouth fell open.
“ Your plan is positively adorable, Alexander.” The voice echoed inside Lex’s head, reverberating off the walls of his mind. “ What in the world makes you think that would work on me again?”
Lex felt himself swallow, and thought before he could stop himself: “ Your need to prove that it wouldn’t.”
Satan laughed softly within the privacy of Lex’s thoughts. “ You think my vanity will be my undoing? ”
“ I can see my father wearing thin on you already. ” Lex tried not to be surprised at the lack of emotion in his own thoughts, at their cold calculations. “ You would prefer a younger, healthier vessel. It would also give you leverage over Clark. I believe that if I offered, you would be unable to refuse. ”
“ And are you offering? ”
Lex’s eyes rested momentarily on Clark Kent’s broad shoulders. On his distraught face, the fear in his eyes. The horror surrounding those ever-lying lips.
He could still remember waking up at the side of the river, the feel of Clark’s lips on his, the certainty that here knelt a creature so much more than human… there was almost no part of Lex that actually felt surprise at learning he’d been right.
That Clark Kent was so much more than what he seemed.
This was Lex’s chance, very possibly his only chance, to match Clark in that role. To take on the hero’s burdens, to wield a power that eclipsed the mundane in its entirety.
“ Yes. ”
Both Lionel Luthor and Jonathan Kent slumped to the floor at the same time. Martha rushed towards her husband, but Clark held her back, aware of the demon that still controlled his father.
Lionel’s body spasmed slightly, eyes and mouth wide, a broken movement to his limbs that spoke of systems shutting down. But Lex remained where he stood.
A slow smile spread over his face even as his father’s form fell still.
“Luthor, what the hell—?!” Dean started forwards, but both Castiel and Sam held him back.
Lucifer ignored all three of them, his eyes, Lex’s blue eyes, found Clark.
Lucifer spread Lex’s arms, grinning in a way the young businessman never had in Clark’s memory, and said, “Tradesies?”
“Come, Clark,” Michael spoke up, “you always knew it would come to this — yourself against Lex Luthor. You both have a destiny to fulfill.”
“No…” Clark breathed, but even as he watched, Lex, with a flick of his hand, called the archangel blade to him from the depths of Castiel’s coat. It appeared ringing in his hand.
Martha tried to shield her son with her body, but Clark began pushing her gently away, his eyes finding Sam’s — and his older brother hurried forward to lead Mrs. Kent away, despite her feeble protests. Clark, still ignoring Michael’s words (that had become mere nonsense sounds somewhere behind him), watched Lex Luthor twirl in his hands the only weapon in the world that could kill the devil.
The devil inside of Lex Luthor.
“Say yes and your friend goes free,” Lucifer chuckled, “though to be fair, this vessel is surprisingly comfor—”
“Stop it,” Clark’s voice caught, tears shining in his eyes, “just… he doesn’t deserve this.” He glanced back at Michael over his shoulder. “You’re wrong about him, about us — we aren’t meant to fight each other, Lex is good —”
“No. I’m not.” The voice was strained, different from the smooth tones of Lucifer.
Sweat stood out on Lex’s bald head, his face growing red with effort. “I’m not good, Clark, but…” his breath caught, eyes hardening. “I am strong .”
“Lex…!” Sam breathed, his eyes wide. Dean shook his head in disbelief, features furrowed. Castiel’s face, meanwhile, was suddenly full of unspeakable sadness.
Lex’s eyes never wavered from Clark’s, his teeth clenched, veins standing out in his neck as he fought the devil within himself.
“Don’t you see, Clark? The only way you can defeat your destiny…” he swallowed, “is if I accept mine.”
And with that, Lex Luthor, Alexander, thrust the archangel blade through his own heart.
Through the heart of the devil.
All sound seemed to have been swallowed up in the flash and sudden crumple of Lex’s body — Clark moved forward at an inhuman speed, catching his friend before he hit the ground.
Cradling the smooth skull in one of his enormous hands.
There was no last moment of consciousness, no last ray of light to leave Lex’s eyes as Clark held him — but there did remain the smallest of smiles around the young man’s lips. A peacefulness to his features.
Tears fell from the farm-boy’s eyes and sobs wracked his enormous frame. They were heard even over the sounds of demons smoking out, and angels vanishing with the flutter of wings as they finally admitted defeat.
Martha Kent, one hand over her mouth and tears streaming down over it, tore her gaze away from her grieving son and looked up at the two eldest Winchesters.
“Please,” she managed, “ Jonathan… !”
Sam and Dean glanced at each other, then moved as one towards the fallen demon — their abandoned brother. Who still crouched within the body of Jonathan Kent, lying broken where he’d been dropped.
When he saw them moving towards him, Adam began to sit up, but Sam shook his head at him, mouth a grim line.
Dean hung back, his face filled with pain and determination. Even as Sam knelt beside Adam and reached into his jacket for the knife, Dean suddenly barked, “Smoke out.”
“Wha—?” Sam looked up at his brother, and the eyes of Mr. Kent widened.
“We owe him,” the words came like broken segments of music or bone, in pieces that shattered as they left Dean’s throat.
“Adam, we… there’s no excuse for what we did to you.” He swallowed. “We can’t kill him, Sam.”
“But Dean—” Before Sam could finish his thought, Adam Winchester left the body of Jonathan Kent in a trail of angry black smoke, disappearing through the hole in the stained glass window.
“Nice to see the humanitarian inside you rearing its fluffy head,” the gravelly London lilt sounded behind them, and Dean didn’t even turn around to glare at the King of Hell.
“You son of a bitch,” he muttered under his breath, watching as Jonathan Kent woke. He began hissing and grunting at the pain in his broken legs, his complaints soon drowned out by the sounds of his wife crying over him, helping him sit up.
Dean finally turned around to face Crowley, trying not to look past him to where Clark still cradled Lex’s body.
“You made a deal with that poor kid—”
“That poor kid just saved your collective bacon, if I’m not mistaken.” Crowley glanced over his shoulder at Lex’ broken form. “He was a brave little tyke in the end.”
“What did you promise him?” Sam asked, his voice tight, eyes beginning to shine. “What did you tempt him with?”
“Oh, the usual,” Crowley said, hands in his pockets, leaning back on his heels, then rocking forward on the balls of his feet — mocking Lex’s customary stance. “Mummy Dearest’s soul released from the eternal barbecue below.”
He watched the expressions on the Winchester boys’ faces change very slightly, and a grin spread over the King’s face. “Not that you boys can empathize with that in any way.”
“Get out of here,” Dean hissed, his fists clenching. “get out of here before I—”
“Kill me with this?” The archangel blade appeared once again in Crowley’s hands.
Clark looked up, his breath catching, the blade having disappeared from Lex’s chest. Then before Crowley could continue his taunting, there was a blur and Clark suddenly held the blade to the Demon King’s throat, his other fist clenched in the front of Crowley’s smart black suit.
“You bring him back,” Clark sobbed, his shoulders heaving, “bring him back or—”
“Clark, don’t.” Sam laid one hand on Clark’s massive bicep, just as Crowley coughed, hands clawing at Clark’s.
“Moosette?! What the bloody—”
“He’s gone, Clark,” Dean barked, Lex’s fallen form still pulsing hazily in his peripheral vision. “You have to let him go.”
“No,” Clark’s voice was small and broken, the tears streaming down his face, “no, it isn’t fair, he saved us… he doesn’t deserve—”
“To go to heaven?” Dean’s voice, still rough, took on a softer tone at its edges. He swallowed, finally forcing himself to look over at where Lex lay on the marble floor, his life force seeping redly along the ground in a spreading puddle. “I think… I think he does.”
“Heaven?” Clark looked up at Dean, blue eyes full of pleading. He then looked back at Crowley, who coughed:
“Yes, dammit. He died committing a selfless act, I’ve got no claim,.” Crowley grunted again as Clark released his hold.
The King of Hell straightened his collar, glaring up at the Winchesters towering over him. “And it’s a bloody shame, too. I was looking forward to working with him… I still maintain he would have made a truly spectacular demon.”
“Yeah, well,” Dean looked over at Clark, mouth working. Then he removed his jacket and stepped over to Lex’s body, kneeling down to wrap it around the young man’s blood soaked shirt. “He made a pretty spectacular hunter, too.”
The sun was setting over the cornfields. A slight breeze was blowing, and the cattle mooed peacefully in the fields of the Kent Farm.
Sam and Dean Winchester both stood leaning back against the Impala. Sam’s arms were folded over his chest and Dean’s hands were deep in the pockets of his jeans. They were both forcing themselves to meet the eyes of their younger brother.
Clark stood across from them, his blue cotton tee-shirt still stained with Lex’s blood.
“Your dad gonna be okay?” Dean finally asked.
Clark nodded, the skin around his eyes still red. His soft mouth pulled down at the edges, and he was using one arm to hug himself. “Yeah, he’s gotta spend a few months in traction, but…” Clark swallowed, “he’ll be alright.”
“Look, Clark,” Sam began, “call us if you need anything, alright? Anything at all.”
“I will.” Clark looked up at them, looking from Sam to Dean and back again. A very small and infinitely sad smile pulled at his lips. “And you two do the same, okay?”
Dean chuckled slightly and stood up. “We just might do that.”
Sam stepped forward and gave Clark a brief hug. “See you around, little brother.”
Clark’s fingers clenched slightly in the back of Sam’s jacket, allowing only a smidgen of his strength to come through. But it was more than enough to express his desperation, his sadness, and his thanks.
Several hours later, the brothers were still surrounded by cornfields, the Impala’s rumble lost in the bass and rhythm guitar of Van Halen’s Jump . The silence hanging between Sam and Dean thrummed along with the synth horns.
Finally Sam cleared his throat. “He really came through in the end…”
“Hm?” Dean grunted.
“Lex. I feel like we really misjudged the guy.”
Dean’s jaw clenched slightly and he nodded, his eyes hardening. “Yeah.”
“He really loved him,” Sam continued, watching his brother out of the corner of his eye. “He gave up everything for Clark.”
Dean nodded again, the movement even more abrupt.
“It seemed like… a really profound bond. Those two had.” Sam continued watching Dean’s profile. “Wouldn’t you say.”
With a screech of tires, the Impala swerved off the road and settled in a cloud of dust on the shoulder.
Dean sat, hands still gripping the steering wheel, shoulders tense. He continued to avoid his brother’s eyes until Sam sighed, opened his door and stepped out of the car, beginning to stride away from the Impala.
He heard Dean’s door open behind him as well and his brother exit the car. “Dammit, Sam, wait—”
“I’m gonna take a short walk, Dean,” Sam said without turning around. “I’ll be back in half an hour or so.”
He heard a very soft whimper from his older brother, and tried to keep down a smile.
Sam walked slowly down the country road, watching a pair of dragonflies chase each other across the heads of corn, listening as crickets began singing as the sun finally vanished over the horizon, the sky a violent shade of pink.
He was barely ten strides away when he heard the sound of wings, followed by: