Notes: Well. It appears I was more troubled by the ending of Exodus than I thought. An image from this came to me in flashes the other night while talking about the episode with some of my peeps. Today, the image decided the story surrounding it needed to be written. This is, I think, largely catharsis. So take from that what you will in reading it.
Disclaimers, et al.: I don't own Smallville or any of its characters. If I did, they'd have better dialogue and continuity. Rated R for language and mature themes.
Spoilers: For Exodus. Tiny one for Accelerate.
Summary: The day of reckoning is nigh.
Feedback: Is a dish best served anyway you'd like.
Helen kicked her sandals off and carried them the rest of the way up the walk to the villa. Her skin and hair were sun-warm and still damp from her swim. The pleasant drowsiness that settled over her during the walk from the beach argued in favor of a nap. She hadn't had a vacation in forever, since before leaving her father's practice in Metropolis, and once she went to work in the genetics lab, she wouldn't have another one for a good long while. She was determined to make the most of her time and that included doing things she never did normally, like sleeping in the middle of the afternoon.
She poured herself a glass of raspberry tea, sipping it as she opened the package that had been specially couriered to her before she left for her swim. Only one person knew who and where she was, and a review of the contents confirmed her suspicions that she was expected to report for duty sooner rather than later.
Screw that, she thought, finishing her tea and returning the security passes and dossiers to the envelope. She'd earned this downtime, going above and beyond to see the plan through to its conclusion - getting stabbed by Paul hadn't exactly been in the script - and she'd be damned if Lionel rushed her back to anything. She'd spent 70-hour weeks for six months unraveling Peter Dinsmore's mistakes in the program and if they were going to move forward she wanted and needed a clear head for it. Two weeks in Gijon would give her that, and whether he liked it or not, Lionel owed her that much.
She would call him and make her position clear. After all, he needed her more than she needed him and there were still one or two pieces of information she hadn't shared. Lionel would play nice in spite of himself once she dropped a hint here or there. She stood, intending to take her glass into the kitchen and make the call, but a sudden dizziness hit her. She closed her eyes to counterbalance the sensation of spinning. She had probably gotten up too fast.
Helen opened her eyes, feeling steadier than before but heavier, too. She was obviously more drowsy than she thought and made a mental note to cut tomorrow's sunbathing back by half an hour. As she turned towards the kitchen, a glinting flash on the coffee table caught her eye. She'd cleared it the night before in a sudden bout of neatness but there was something ....
She stepped forward, sluggish and uneven, and the spinning came back. She blinked hard, trying to regain her focus on what had caught her attention. Dread, pure and bitter, sheeted through her and stopped her dead where she stood when her brain clicked over and identified the objects on the table.
A pair of platinum wedding rings, laid out to look like they were interlocking.
The glass fell from her hand, shattering on the hardwood floor under her bare feet.
She could feel the shifting at her back, hear the distinct slide of a body pushing itself away from the wall. She turned her head to look, not ready to cut her feet to ribbons trying to run unless it was absolutely necessary.
He stepped from the shadow of the alcove and Helen couldn't help but wonder how long he'd been there, just watching her, waiting.
"Hi, honey," and his voice was like ice even though his skin was as sun-kissed as hers. "I'm home."
Fear uncurled itself in the pit of her stomach and damn the glass, she needed to move. She turned in the direction of the bedroom, hoping distance and familiarity would give her enough of a lead to get to the gun in the closet, but the heavy sluggishness from before kicked in full force and she tripped over own feet, falling to the floor, a shard of glass embedding itself in her shoulder when she landed.
She tried to roll onto her stomach to push herself up, but it felt like she had no control over her muscles. She couldn't make them do what she wanted and she could feel wetness on her cheeks as he moved across the room towards her. She hoped it was just sweat.
He stopped directly in front of her, cocking his head to look at her at an angle that might have been comical if it didn't remind her so much of a bird of prey.
Lex crouched low, the movement fluid and quick, one hand reaching to brush her hair out of her eyes. He was dressed like a local, low slung khakis and a black tank top, necklace of stones resting in the hollow of his throat and she imagined no one had paid it any mind if he'd been lurking around while she was out. With a hat to keep the sun out of his eyes, he could have passed for any one of the young merchants who lined the main street, or any of their customers. Oh, so easy to duck away when no one was looking and slip inside ....
"Lex." She could barely get it out, her tongue a thick and leaden weight in her mouth.
"Surprised to see me?" He trailed his fingers down her other arm, his touch hot and dry and the fact that she couldn't move away from it made it that much worse. "Well, that's understandable," he said, tone sounding light and conversational.
If you didn't know him at all.
Helen's heart was racing, but her whole body felt like what she imagined the sensation of turning to stone would be.
Lex looked more feral than she remembered ever seeing him, the angles of his face sharper and more defined, blue eyes glinting and so very, very cold.
There was no good to be had here. Helen knew this as surely as she knew her own name, as surely as she knew she'd married this man and then left him to die.
As if he'd read her mind, Lex spoke. "I wasn't ready to die." He leaned further down, close enough to smell. Clean sweat and hints of the ocean and there was a time, however brief, when she would have been glad to breathe him in. When he spoke again, his lips brushed against hers. "You didn't mean that much to me."
If she could have bitten him she would have, but at this point, it was a struggle to keep blinking. "What...." It was all she could manage.
He smiled, even white teeth in a candy red mouth and there was so much joy in it Helen knew in her bones that she was a dead woman.
"It's a liquid paralytic." He trailed a finger over her lips. "A holdover from my rebellious and self-destructive periods. Custom-made." He laughed, almost to himself. "I wasn't sure it would work. Finding all the ingredients in the Caribbean isn't as easy as finding them in Metropolis, believe it or not. But I was able to track down our wedding pilot and he was an excellent test subject."
Helen was grateful the drug appeared to render her incapable of crying.
"I'm glad you have such regular habits, Helen." She must have registered some confusion at the non-sequitor because he smiled again and clarified. "You always drink .... something when you get back from your swim. Fortunately, there wasn't a lot in the refrigerator to choose from. Although I guess I'm somewhat lucky water isn't your preference. I really didn't want to have to wait around all day."
She tried again to speak. Maybe if she could make him believe she'd had no choice, that she'd been duped, too. "Lex."
"What?" His face twisted, its singular beauty giving way to a flash of rage so ugly it made her gasp. "'I'm sorry?' 'It wasn't supposed to be like this?' What, Helen? What could you possibly have to say?"
He moved then, lightning quick, pulling her into his arms and a tiny spark of hope flickered behind her heavy-lidded eyes. She'd seen him be gracious. Merciful. Kind. If she could reach that part of him somehow, if it was still there to reach, maybe she could get out of this alive. She at least had to try.
"I .... am .... sorry." It took the wind out of her and even though she couldn't feel her body, it seemed as though she'd settled further into his embrace.
His face softened, eyes flickering with the first warmth she'd seen in them since he'd made his presence known, and the small smile looked almost wistful. "Just tell me, Helen .... just tell me if you were on your own or with my father." He caressed her cheek.
They say the truth shall set you free. It was twisted and fucked-up in so many ways Helen couldn't begin to count them, but if Lex simply wanted to scare the ever-living shit out of her, she could live with that. Maybe if she offered Lionel up, made it clear somehow she could help Lex take him down, this could still end decently for both of them. She breathed deep, chose her words carefully since getting them out was such a chore.
"Your father." Another deep breath. "Paid me." Another. "Wanted you... out of the way."
He twisted a strand of her hair around his finger and asked, almost distractedly, "why?"
And here was the pay-off. The truth that could save her. Funny how no matter what she did, she couldn't escape the fact of this and its impact on Lex.
Lex's kiss was as soft as she remembered, tongue slicking over hers with confidence and heat. He pulled back, licking her once for good measure. He stared at her for a long time and she wondered how she'd never noticed the thin ring of gold around the blue of his irises. He closed his eyes, pale brows drawing together and she knew he was making a decision, hoped like hell it was the one she needed him to make.
"Thank you," he said finally, voice light and features smooth again. "I promise you, Helen," and by the time she saw the needle it was too late, "this won't hurt a bit."
Helen came back to consciousness in stifling darkness, her head pillowed on something firm and smooth. Her head was throbbing like the worst hangover, but it pleased her to realize she could move her hand to reach up and touch it. Her body was coming back to life, pins and needles everywhere, as though she'd slept on everything wrong, cut off the circulation and now it was all coming back.
She started to sit up but didn't get very far before banging her head against something, which made the throbbing worse. She closed her eyes again, took several deep breaths and then opened them when the worst of the pain passed. Her eyes didn't want to adjust to the darkness of wherever she was, so she reached out carefully, feeling with her hands.
Her fingers brushed over a hard surface directly in front of her face, roughly seven inches away. Sweat broke out on the back of her neck and her upper lip. She moved her right hand carefully along the surface until her fingers came up against what felt like a corner, then another flat, smooth surface about seven inches to the right of her head. The same awful dread she felt when she saw the wedding rings crept along her spine like a spider and she reached out blindly with her left hand, smacking it hard against yet another flat, hard surface.
Panic clawed its way up her throat as she realized exactly where she was and exactly what it meant, and Helen did the only thing anyone could do upon learning they'd been buried alive.
Additional Author Notes: Parts of this story were inspired by the 1993 movie The Vanishing. Well, to be completely accurate, those parts are really inspired by the Dutch original, but I can't find a link for it and the American remake is the one I actually saw. But I've heard about the original, which is allegedly the superior movie. I certainly think the aspect of it that served as inspiration and that I heard about sounds way cooler than what was done in the remake.
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